In 1880 Spencer Walpole led an Enquiry into the Destruction of Fish at Billingsgate, seeking to understand whether excessive numbers of fish were being destroyed and if there were ways this waste could be minimised. His investigation, focused on one urban market, followed fish bodies along railway lines and out to sea in an attempt to understand the place of Billingsgate Market (London) and its environs within the complex web of the movement of fish bodies.
This paper likewise moves between urban settings and the North Sea. It takes up theoretical work by Paul Gilroy (1993), Christina Sharpe (2016) and Zoe Todd (2018) to rethink fish, fishing and the sea as agents in the making of modern urban space. The talk offers a first sketch of a new coastal history of the modern North Sea, a project funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship and developing earlier work funded by the Leverhulme Trust.