Excerpt from “Solar Behavior”: ‘The Fish Revolution’, Brain Health and the European Renaissance

Image: Exhibition to celebrate 500 years of fishing links between Newfoundland and Devon, especially Teignmouth. Image:

From page 110:

The Renaissance saw its crucial period between 1400 and 1600, which roughly coincides with the Spoerer Minimum. At this time the exploitation of cod fishing in the northern Atlantic led fishermen to reach north America before Columbus, and long after the Norse landed in Newfoundland from Greenland in the 1300s. [i]

The chain of events is described in detail in Kim 2007: ‘Cod Migration and the Discovery of the New World,’ [ii] The church had been promoting eating fish in the early medieval period. 

In the 11th century, fish was sourced from rivers and lakes and was also farmed in ponds, By the mid 13th century, Herring was consumed throughout Europe. In the early 1400s, cod replaces herring as the fish of choice in monasteries. [iii]

“Devout Catholics were in great want of cod because from the 8th century on, the Catholic Church obliged people to eat only fish on the so-called “Lean Days”. [iv]

By the 1300s, European lakes and rivers were depleted, and fishing enterprises expanded throughout the North Sea, from Bristol to Norway, Iceland, Greenland and North America. Shin Kim explains the westerly shift in the cod population at the onset of the Little Ice Age and how this was one of the important factors contributing to the discovery of the New World in the late 15th century. The British ventured beyond Iceland in the search for Cod fishing grounds.  

“A letter from the Bristol merchants to Columbus confirms that the British ships Trinity and George had really been to North America [beginning in 1480/ 81, continuing into the 1490s]. In the letter, which is dated before the Columbian journey, merchants allege that Columbus knows perfectly well about the fact that the Bristol ships had already been to America.”  [v]

In 1497, John Cabot returned to Bristol from a voyage across the North Atlantic. He told of waters so thick with fish that they could be lifted straight on board in baskets. Within a few years of this journey, fishermen from all over Western Europe made the journey across. This was the beginning of the Fish Revolution of the early-modern world. [vi]

Paul Holm calls the Fish Revolution one of the first examples of the disrupting effects of globalization and climate change [natural climate change] Fish was a high-priced, limited resource in the Late Middle Ages. The Grand Banks fishery offered abundant high-quality low-priced catches to the European market. At the same time, climate worsened as the Little Ice Age drove down sea temperatures and changed marine ecosystems. [vii]

Now, fatty sea fish such as salmon, herring and cod, are rich in omega-3 acids which are vital to brain health. These species are found in northern oceans. The cod is abundant in waters where the surface temperature is between 2 and 13 degrees Celsius. Cod belong to the same family (Gadidae) along with both haddock and pollock.

There is an ‘empirical link between fat fish consumption and brain -development and -function’, it is even implicated in the prevention of mental illness (see below). Even though diets of certain cultures/ regions are not empirically linked to brain size, it can be assumed that the development of large brain size of arctic peoples (Inuit, Aleutians…) could have been furthered (other than by adaptation to thermoregulation) by high consumption of these fats. Arctic peoples of northern Russia, Alaska and Canada also have the highest IQs of all indigenous peoples. From the top 12 food sources by omega-3 -6 fatty acids content, almost all are sea fish and sea foods from higher latitude waters, plant sources include walnuts and chia seeds, flax seeds and soybeans. [viii] The latter have to be cultivated for significant quantities and are not relevant in hunter-gatherer diets. 

At any rate, insufficient omega-3 acids’ intake can lead to brain development deficiencies:

“The principle omega-3 fatty acid in brain, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), accumulates in the brain during perinatal cortical expansion and maturation.”

“Animal studies have demonstrated that reductions in perinatal brain DHA accrual are associated with deficits in neuronal arborization, multiple indices of synaptic pathology including deficits in serotonin and mesocorticolimbic dopamine neurotransmission, neurocognitive deficits, and elevated behavioral indices of anxiety, aggression, and depression.” [ix] The George Mateljan Foundation reports: “A number of studies indicate Omega-3 fatty acids – abundant in fat fish from northern seas – protect against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline”.  [x]

S. Zadeh et al surmised that diet and health can possibly counteract geomagnetic forces and help avoiding conflicts.

“Socio-political turmoil, possibly extending to terrorism, should seek rest in the prevention of ramping diseases propagated by socio-environmental factors including diet, physical and mental activities, tobacco and alcohol consumption. Re-balancing tissue, omega-6/3 fatty acids through diet, in conjunction with regular practice of meditation, pranayam and yogasan, do improve resistance to chronic ill-health affecting body and mind. “ [i]

As we have laid out in detail above, the unique cluster of several grand solar minima between the 14th and the 20th century (roughly bracketing the Little Ice Age) was aiding the development of the Renaissance, Humanism, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution and also the reduction in violence in this time (the ‘war on crime’) in Europe and simultaneously in East Asia (which was culturally and geographically separated from Europe). Even average intelligence rose in Europe in this period before it started to decline around 1850. Even skull height increased. From Chapter 12:

In less than 700 years – since the Black Death – cranium capacity has increased in English populations. Researchers compared skulls from the time of the Black Death (≈650 years ago), from the crew of the Mary Rose, a ship that sank in Tudor times (≈450 years ago), and from our contemporaries. The height of the cranial vault of our contemporaries is about 15 percent larger than that of the earlier populations, increasing the volume of the part of the skull that contains the frontal lobe. [I] Recall the function of the frontal lobe, in particular the prefrontal cortex is instrumental to self-control. 

Beyond the helio-geo-physical changes (such as lowered Geomagnetic storm activity, increase secondary cosmic rays flux etc.) and genetic selection, I postulate that the increased consumption of fat fish in Europe as incentivised by the Church for whatever reason may have aided the pacification process and the cultural revolutions bio-chemically during this time. 


[i] Zadeh, S. et al, 2014: Can Diet and Lifestyle Factors and Geomagnetic Forces Predispose Aggression?; The Open Nutraceuticals Journal, 2011, Volume 4

[i] Rock W. P. et al 2006: “A Cephalometric Comparison of Skulls from the Fourteenth, Sixteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” British Dental Journal 200 (2006): 33–37.

[i] Cabot, Cod and the colonists By Heather Pringle; CANADIAN GEOGRAPHIC; p. 36

Click to access atlantic-cod-cabot-cod-and-the-colonists.pdf

[ii] Kim, Shin, 2007: Early Years of the Little Ice Age in Northern Europe, 1300-1500, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy International Program; chapter III

[iii] The Marine Institute Auditorium, Oranmore, Galway,, 31 Aug 2009

[iv] Kim, Shin, 2007: Early Years of the Little Ice Age in Northern Europe, 1300-1500, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy International Program

[v] Kim, Shin, 2007: Early Years of the Little Ice Age in Northern Europe, 1300-1500, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy International Program; Chapter. III.5

[vi] Holm, Paul, et al 2016:  The Little Ice Age and the North Atlantic Fish Revolution

April 5, 2016; Public Lecture; The Marine Institute Auditorium, Oranmore, Galway

[vii] Holm, Paul, et al 2016:  The Little Ice Age and the North Atlantic Fish Revolution

April 5, 2016; Public Lecture; The Marine Institute Auditorium, Oranmore, Galway

[viii] Healthline; Freydis Hjalmarsdottir, MS on September 30, 2019

[ix] McNamara, Robert K. et al 2006: Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and function: Potential implications for the pathogenesis and prevention of psychopathology; Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids; Volume 75, Issues 4–5, October–November 2006, Pages 329-349

[x] The World’s Healthiest Foods; The George Mateljan Foundation; October 14-20, 2019

Categories: Allgemein

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