Image: Town with cod hanging to dry in the behind houses

The Amazing Way a Fish Changed Human History

If it weren’t for this one fish, the stories in our history books would be a lot different!

Can something as small as a fish really have that big of an impact on the world? Well, the presence of this one has influenced wars, borders, and supported an entire group of peoples!

As the human race migrated from their origins in sunny Africa to the dark, brutal cold of the Northern Hemisphere, mysterious medical issues began to crop up. Bones became brittle, small, and debilitatingly deformed. Shrouded in darkness for much of the year, the severe lack of sun in the north made it nearly impossible for those groups of people to receive the amount of Vitamin D needed for healthy development. So how in the world did one of the most ferocious groups of warriors to ever meet history books come from the cold dark north?

Well, they can thank a fish.

Image: Town with cod hanging to dry in the behind houses
Cod hanging to dry
Source: Max Pixel

Vikings: Fueled by… Fish?

Perhaps most known for grisly raids on coastal towns, the Vikings were a group of people living in Scandanavia from the 8th through the 11th centuries. 1 With a reputation for being large, brutal and merciless explorers and conquerors, these people would have been nothing but small, brittle creatures without the help of cod!

Yes, you read that right: cod. Vitamin D is one of the basic vitamins needed for the human body to develop correctly. Without it, our bones aren’t able to form correctly. The Northern Hemisphere spends much of the year without enough sun to provide adequate amounts of this vitamin. And cod? A single serving of this fish has enough vitamin D to last us an entire month. 2 As word of this spread throughout Scandanavia, people began to grow bigger, stronger, and healthier. This truly awesome video from Veritasium lets us in on this often overlooked piece of history!

(If you need a refresher on how our bones work before we get started here—because I didn’t know!—head over to one of our recent articles!)

Via: Veritasium 3

See more of the world through the insightful lens of Veritasium by visiting their channel and following them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

And if you’d like to learn more about this amazing fish, we have a book recommendation for you! Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky looks at how cod made it possible for humans to explore the globe!

There are so many little details that had a huge impact on history.

What if the Vikings never discovered the fish swimming off their shores? What if we never discovered that fruit cures scurvy? Without all of the conquering and exploring that happened, what would the borderlines of the world look like? How would the world be shaped today?

The small factors add up into something monumental, just as grains of sand come together to make a beach or cells work together to make you. Looking at the little details of life helps us understand the scope of the whole picture. When we peer closely at our world, the pieces tend to fall together.

Stay open to new possibilities! You never know what you can influence.

  •  Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein 


  1. History Extra. “A Brief History of the Vikings.” HistoryExtra. History Extra, 21 Aug. 2019. Web. 17 Sept. 2019. <>.
  2. Veritasium. “How Cod Saved the Vikings.” YouTube. Veritasium, 07 July 2019. Web. 17 Sept. 2019. <>.
  3. Veritasium. “How Cod Saved the Vikings.” YouTube. Veritasium, 07 July 2019. Web. 17 Sept. 2019. <>.
Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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