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The Origin and Development of Markets: A Business History Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2011


The origins of the market are obscure, but substantial documentary evidence survives from the eleventh century onward, when chartered markets and new towns were established across Western Europe. The expansion of the market system is important for business history because it created new opportunities for business growth. There has been no systematic literature review on market evolution since Henri Pirenne and Raymond de Roover, and this article attempts to fill the gap. It shows that successful markets were regulated–often by civic authorities–to maintain a reputation for reasonable prices and quality control. Markets were located at both transport hubs and centers of consumption, even when the latter were quite remote. However, as transport and communication costs declined, shakeouts occurred and only the larger markets survived.

Research Article
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2011

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