Please note, due to scheduled maintenance online transactions will not be possible between 07:00 - 10:00 GMT, on Thursday 21st March (03:00-06:00 EDT, 21 March, 2019). We apologise for any inconvenience.
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.
1 Smith, Adam, Wealth of Nations, Glasgow edition (Oxford, 1976), 34.
2 Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise (Cambridge, Mass., 1962).
3 McCraw, Thomas K., Regulation in Perspective: Historical Essays (Cambridge, Mass., 1982); Vietor, Richard H. K., Contrived Competition: Regulation and Deregulation in America (Cambridge, Mass., 1994). On parallel and complementary approaches to financial markets, see Cassis, Youssef, Capitals of Capital (Cambridge, U.K., 2010), and Michie, Ranald, The Global Securities Market: A History (Oxford, 2010).
4 Hurst, James Willard, Law and Markets in United States History (Madison, Wisc., 1982).
5 Pirenne, Henri, Medieval Cities, trans. Halsey, F. D. (Princeton, N.J., 1925); de Roover, Raymond, The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank, 1397–1494 (Cambridge, Mass., 1963).
6 Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation (New York, 1971).
7 Schumpeter, Joseph A., Theory of Economic Development, ed. Opie, Redvers (Cambridge, Mass., 1934).
8 Britnell, Richard H., “The Proliferation of Markets in England, 1200–1349,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 34 (1981): 209–21; Samantha Letters, with Fernandes, Mario, Keene, Derek, and Myhill, Olwen, Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516 (Kew, Surrey, 2003), available online at the Centre for Metropolitan History Web site: www.history.ac.uk/cmh/gaz/gazweb2.html, accessed 5 Dec. 2010; Dijkman, Jessica, “Medieval Market Institutions: The Organisation of Commodity Markets in Holland, c.1200– c.1450,” PhD diss., University of Utrecht, 2010, 295–314.
9 O'Flanagan, Patrick, “Markets and Fairs in Ireland, 1600–1800: Index of Economic Development and Regional Growth,” Journal of Historical Geography 11, no. 4 (1985): 366.
10 Bailey, Mark, “Trade and Towns in Medieval England: New Insights from Familiar Sources,” The Local Historian 29 (1999): 194–211.
11 Blondé, Bruno, Stabel, Peter, Stobart, Jon, and Damme, Ilja Van, “Retail Circuits and Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: An Introduction,” in Buyers and Sellers: Retail Circuits and Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Blondé, Bruno et al. (Turnhout, Belgium, 2006), 7–30; Thwaites, Wendy, “Farmers, Markets and Trade in England, 1200–1900,” The Local Historian 37 (2007): 76–98.
12 Britnell, Richard H., “Local Trade, Remote Trade: Institutions, Information, and Market Integration, 1050–1330,” in Fiere e mercati nella integrazione delle economie europee, secc. XIII–XVIII, ed. Cavaciocchi, Simonetta (Florence, 2001), 185–89; Hoyle, R. W., “New Markets and Fairs in the Yorkshire Dales, 1550–1750,” in Post-medieval Landscapes, ed. Barnwell, P. S. and Palmer, Marilyn (Macclesfield, 2007), 94.
13 Epstein, Steven A., An Economic and Social History of Later Medieval Europe, 1000–1500 (Cambridge, U.K., 2009), 81–83; Moore, Ellen, The Fairs of Medieval England: An Introductory Study (Toronto, 1985); van Bavel, B. J. P., Manors and Markets: Economy and Society in the Low Countries, 500–1600 (Oxford, 2010), 221–24.
14 Jeffreys, James B., Retail Trading in Britain, 1850–1950 (Cambridge, U.K., 1954).
15 Smith, Colin, “The Wholesale and Retail Markets of London, 1660–1840,” Economic History Review 55 (2002): 35.
16 Keene, Derek, “Sites of Desire: Shops, Selds and Wardrobes in London and Other English Cities, 1100–1550,” in Buyers and Sellers: Retail Circuits and Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Blondé, Bruno et al. (Turnhout, Belgium, 2006), 125–53.
17 Fowler, Christina, “Changes in Provincial Retail Practice during the Eighteenth Century, with Particular Reference to Central–Southern England,” Business History 40 (1998): 37–54; Clark, Peter, European Cities and Towns, 400–2000 (Oxford, 2009), 151–52.
18 Bellingham, Roger A., “Retailing at Selby in the Late Eighteenth Century,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 74 (2002): 227, 231.
19 Mui, Hoh-Cheung and Mui, Lorna H., Shops and Shopkeeping in Eighteenth-century England (London, 1989), 216–19.
20 Alan Everitt, “The Marketing of Agricultural Produce, 1500–1640,” and Chartres, John, “The Marketing of Agricultural Produce, 1640–1750,” in Chartres, John, ed., Chapters from the Agrarian History of England and Wales, vol. 4: Agricultural Markets and Trade, 1500–1750 (Cambridge, U.K., 1990), 16–29, 160–71; Hoyle, “New Markets and Fairs”; O'Flanagan, “Markets and Fairs,” 364–78.
21 Smith, “The Wholesale and Retail Markets of London.”
22 Clark, European Cities, 266–67; Miller, Michael B., The Bon Marché: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store, 1869–1920 (London, 1981).
23 Walsh, Claire, “The Newness of the Department Store: A View from the Eighteenth Century,” in Cathedrals of Consumption: The European Department Store, 1850–1939, ed. Crossick, Geoffrey and Jaumain, Serge (Aldershot, 1999), 46–71.
24 Barger, Harold, Distribution's Place in the American Economy since 1869 (Princeton, 1955), 69–71.
25 Stobart, Jon, “Clothes, Cabinets, and Carriages: Second-hand Dealing in Eighteenth Century England,” in Buyers and Sellers: Retail Circuits and Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Blondé, Bruno et al. (Turnhout, Belgium, 2006), 225–44; Woodward, Donald, “‘Swords into Ploughshares’: Recycling in Pre-Industrial England,” Economic History Review 38 (1985): 178–79; Lemire, Beverly, “Consumerism in Preindustrial and Early Industrial England: The Trade in Secondhand Clothes,” Journal of British Studies 27 (1988): 1–24; Lambert, Miles, “‘Cast-off Wearing Apparell’: The Consumption and Distribution of Second-hand Clothing in Northern England during the Long Eighteenth Century,” Textile History 35 (2004): 1–26.
26 Davis, James, “Marketing Second-hand Goods in Late Medieval England,” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 2 (2010): 270–86.
27 North, Douglass C., Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (Cambridge, U.K., 1990).
28 Stabel, Peter, “Markets and Retail,” in Fiere e mercati nella integrazione delle economie europee, secc. XIII–XVIII, ed. Cavaciocchi, Simonetta (Florence, 2001), 803–9.
29 Britnell, “Local Trade, Remote Trade,” 194; Britnell, Richard H., The Commercialisation of English Society, 1000–1500, 2nd ed. (Manchester, 1996), 90–97; Kowaleski, Maryanne, Local Markets and Regional Trade in Medieval Exeter (Cambridge, U.K., 1995), 180–92; Davis, James, “Baking for the Common Good: A Reassessment of the Assize of Bread in Medieval England,” Economic History Review 57 (2004): 465–502; Casson, Catherine, “A Comparative Study of Prosecutions for Forgery in Trade and Manufacturing in Six English Towns, 1250 to 1400,” unpublished PhD diss., University of York, 2010.
30 Stabel, “Markets and Retail,” 800, 816; Masschaele, James, “The Public Space of the Marketplace in Medieval England,” Speculum 77 (2002): 383–421.
31 Lee, John S., “Grain Shortages in Late Medieval Towns,” in Markets and Entrepreneurs in Medieval England: Essays in Honour of Richard Britnell, ed. Dodds, Ben (Woodbridge, 2011); Outhwaite, R. B., Dearth, Public Policy, and Social Disturbance in England, 1550–1800 (London, 1991).
32 Davis, James, Medieval Market Morality: Life, Law and Ethics in the English Marketplace, c.1200–c.1500 (Cambridge, U.K., forthcoming).
33 Thompson, E. P., “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 50 (1971): 76–136.
34 Mackenney, Richard, Tradesmen and Traders: The World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe, c.1250–c.1650 (Totowa, N.J., 1987); Epstein, S. R., “Craft Guilds in the Pre-modern Economy: A Discussion,” Economic History Review 61 (2008): 155–74.
35 Spufford, Peter, Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe (London, 2002), 16–59.
36 Postan, M. M., “Credit in Medieval Trade,” in Medieval Trade and Finance, ed. Postan, M. M. (Cambridge, U.K., 1973), 1–27.
37 Clark, Elaine, “Debt Litigation in a Late Medieval English Village,” in Pathways to Medieval Peasants, ed. Raftis, J. A. (Toronto, 1981), 247–79; Briggs, Chris, Credit and Village Society in Fourteenth-Century England (Oxford, 2009); Muldrew, Craig, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (London, 1998); Fontaine, Laurence, “Antonio and Shylock: Credit and Trust in France, c.1680–c.1780,” Economic History Review 54 (2001): 39–57.
38 Epstein, S. R., Freedom and Growth: The Rise of States and Markets in Europe, 1300–1750 (London, 2000); Epstein, “Regional Fairs,” 472.
39 Dodgshon, Robert A., “The Changing Evaluation of Space, 1500–1914,” in An Historical Geography of England and Wales, ed. Dodgshon, Robert A. and Butlin, R. A., 2nd ed. (London, 1990), 261–63.
40 Ibid., 264–65.
41 North, Douglass C., “Markets and Other Allocative Systems in History: The Challenge of Karl Polanyi,” Journal of European Economic History 6 (1977): 703–16; Dodgshon, , “Changing Evaluation of Space,” 260, 264–68.
42 John, Richard R., Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications (Cambridge, Mass., 2010).
43 Leech, William, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York, 1993), 351.
44 Britnell, Commercialisation, 21–23; Palliser, David, ed., Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol. 1: 600–1540 (Cambridge, U.K., 2000), 44; Astill, Grenville, “Medieval Towns and Urbanization,” in Reflections: Fifty Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957–2007, ed. Gilchrist, Roberta and Reynolds, Andrew (Leeds, 2009), 260.
45 Palliser, Cambridge Urban History, 264; Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, vol. 12 (London, 1990), 326, 360, 369.
46 Spufford, Power and Profit, 60–139; Harvey, Barbara, “The Aristocratic Consumer in England in the Long Thirteenth Century,” in Thirteenth-Century England, vol. 6: Proceedings of the Durham Conference, ed. Prestwich, Michael, Britnell, Richard, and Frame, Robin (Woodbridge, 1997), 17–37.
47 Campbell, Bruce M. S. and Overton, Mark, “A New Perspective of Medieval and Early Modern Agriculture: Six Centuries of Norfolk Farming, c.1250–c.1850,” Past and Present 141 (1993): 99–105; Grantham, George, “Agricultural Supply during the Industrial Revolution: French Evidence and European Implications,” Journal of Economic History 49 (1989): 43–72.
48 Fisher, F. Jack, “The Development of London as a Centre of Conspicuous Consumption in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” and “London as an ‘Engine of Economic Growth,’ ” in London and the English Economy, 1500–1700, ed. Corfield, Penelope J. and Harte, Negley B. (London, 1990), 105–18, 185–98; Wrigley, Edward Anthony, “A Simple Model of London's Importance in Changing English Society and Economy, 1650–1750,” in Towns in Societies: Essays in Economic History and Historical Sociology, ed. Abrams, Philip and Wrigley, Edward Anthony (Cambridge, U.K., 1978); Campbell, Bruce M. S. et al. , A Medieval Capital and its Grain Supply: Agrarian Production and Distribution in the London Region, c.1300 (London, 1993).
49 Abulafi, David, “Southern Italy and the Florentine Economy, 1265–1370,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 33 (1981): 377–88; Britnell, Richard H., “Markets and Incentives: Common Themes and Regional Variations,” in Agriculture and Rural Society after the Black Death, ed. Dodds, Ben and Britnell, Richard H. (Hatfield, 2008), 10.
50 Britnell, “Local Trade, Remote Trade,” 202; Galloway, James A., “One Economy or Many? Markets, Regions and the Impact of London, c. 1300–1600,” in, Trade, Urban Hinterlands, and Market Integration, c.1300–1600, ed. Galloway, James A. (London, 2000), 23–42; Hybel, Nils, “The Grain Trade in Northern Europe before 1350,” Economic History Review 55 (2002): 219–47.
51 Gibson, Alex J. S. and Smout, T. Christopher, “Regional Prices and Market Regions: The Evolution of the Early Modern Scottish Grain Market,” Economic History Review 48 (1995): 258–82.
52 McKendrick, Neil, Brewer, John, and Plumb, J. H., The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialisation of Eighteenth-century England (London, 1982).
53 De Vries, Jan, “The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution,” Journal of Economic History 54 (1994): 249–70; Clark, Gregory and Van Der Werf, Ysbrand, “Work in Progress? The Industrious Revolution,” Journal of Economic History 58 (1998): 830–43.
54 Weatherill, Lorna, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 1660–1760 (London, 1988); Dyer, Christopher, An Age of Transition? Economy and Society in England in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 2005), 126–57; Kowaleski, Maryanne, “A Consumer Economy,” in A Social History of England, 1200–1500, ed. Horrox, Rosemary and Ormrod, Mark (Oxford, 2004), 238–59.
55 Dyer, Christopher, “The Consumer and the Market in the Later Middle Ages,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 42 (1989): 305–27; Threlfall-Holmes, Miranda, Monks and Markets: Durham Cathedral Priory, 1460–1520 (Oxford, 2005).
56 Keene, Derek, “Medieval London and Its Region,” London Journal 14 (1989): 106.
57 Wrigley, “A Simple Model of London's Importance,” 233.
58 Maitland, Frederick W., Township and Borough (Cambridge, U.K., 1898): 40; Lee, John S., Cambridge and Its Economic Region, 1450–1560 (Hatfield, 2005), 87, 117.
59 Britnell, Richard H., Growth and Decline in Colchester, 1300–1525 (Cambridge, U.K., 1986), 177.
60 Lee, John S., “The Functions and Fortunes of English Small Towns at the Close of the Middle Ages: Evidence from John Leland's Itinerary,” Urban History 37 (2010): 24–25.
61 Dyer, Age of Transition, 143.
62 Britnell, Richard H., “Urban Demand in the English Economy, 1300–1600,” in Trade, Urban Hinterlands and Market Integration, c.1300–1600, ed. Galloway, James A. (London, 2000), 1–22; Masschaele, James, “The Multiplicity of Medieval Markets Reconsidered,” Journal of Historical Geography 20 (1994): 255–71; Britnell, Commercialisation, 233–25.
63 Epstein, S. R., “Regional Fairs, Institutional Innovation, and Economic Growth in Late Medieval Europe,” Economic History Review 47 (1994): 459–82; Epstein, S. R., “Fairs, Towns and States in Renaissance Europe,” in Fiere e mercati nella integrazione delle economie europee, secc. XIII–XVIII, ed. Cavaciocchi, Simonetta (Florence, 2001), 71–90; Blanchard, Ian, “The Continental European Cattle Trades, 1400–1600,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 39 (1986): 427–60.
64 Lee, John S., “The Role of Fairs in Late Medieval England,” in Town and Countryside in the Age of the Black Death, ed. Rigby, S. H. and Bailey, Mark (Turnhout, Belgium, forthcoming).
65 Van Bavel, Manors and Markets, 221–22, 237–38.
66 Stobart, “Clothes, Cabinets, and Carriages”; Walton, John R., “The Rise of the Agricultural Auctioneer in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain,” Journal of Historical Geography 10 (1984): 15–36.
67 Mitchell, Ian, “The Changing Role of Fairs in the Long Eighteenth Century: Evidence from the Midlands,” Economic History Review 60 (2007): 545–73.
68 Britnell, Richard, “Markets, Shops, Inns, Taverns and Private Houses in Medieval English Trade,” in Buyers and Sellers: Retail Circuits and Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Blondé, Bruno et al. (Turnhout, Belgium, 2006), 109–23.
69 Walter, John, “The Social Economy of Dearth in Early Modern England,” in Famine, Disease and the Social Order in Early Modern Society, ed. Walter, John and Schofield, Roger (Cambridge, U.K., 1989), 100–103.
70 Lee, Cambridge and Its Economic Region, 94.
71 Dyer, Chris, “The Hidden Trade of the Middle Ages: Evidence from the West Midlands of England,” Journal of Historical Geography 18 (1992): 141–57; Bailey, Mark, “A Tale of Two Towns: Buntingford and Standon in the Later Middle Ages,” Journal of Medieval History 19 (1993): 358; Lee, Cambridge and Its Economic Region, 96–97.
72 Carlin, Martha, Medieval Southwark (London, 1996), 191–229.
73 Dijkman, Medieval Market Institutions, 84–121.
74 Britnell, “Markets and Incentives,” 9; Lee, Cambridge and Its Economic Region, 161; Everitt, Alan, “The English Urban Inn, 1560–1760,” in Perspectives in English Urban History, ed. Everitt, Alan (London, 1973), 91–137; Spufford, Power and Profit, 203–4; Deceulaer, Harold, “Dealing with Diversity: Pedlars in the Southern Netherlands in the Eighteenth Century,” in Buyers and Sellers: Retail Circuits and Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Blondé, Bruno et al. (Turnhout, Belgium, 2006), 180.
75 Carlin, Martha, “Fast Food and Urban Living Standards in Medieval England,” in Food and Eating in Medieval Europe, ed. Carlin, Martha (London, 1998).
76 Smith, “Markets of London.”
77 Fontaine, Laurence, History of Pedlars in Europe, trans. Whittaker, Vicki (Oxford, 1996), 8–10.
78 Tudor Economic Documents, 3 vols., ed. Tawney, R. H. and Power, Eileen (London, 1924), 3: 108–9.
79 Spufford, Margaret, The Great Reclothing of Rural England: Petty Chapmen and their Wares in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1984), 43, 78, 90–103.
80 Wordsworth, Dorothy, The Grasmere Journals, ed. Woof, Pamela (Oxford, 1991), 25.
81 Deceulaer, “Dealing with Diversity,” 176–77; Westerfield, Ray B., Middlemen in English Business, Particularly between 1660 and 1760 (New Haven, 1915), 313–14; Fontaine, Pedlars, 92–93. For comparison with the twentieth-century salesman, see Friedman, Walter, Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America (Cambridge, Mass., 2004).
82 Benson, John and Ugolini, Laura, “Introduction: Historians and the Nation of Shopkeepers,” in A Nation of Shopkeepers: Five Centuries of British Retailing, ed. Benson, John and Ugolini, Laura (London, 2003), 11–12; Davis, James, “ ‘Men as March with Fote Packes’: Pedlars and Freedom of Mobility in Late-Medieval England,” in Freedom of Movement in the Middle Ages: Proceedings of the Twentieth Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Horden, Peregrine (Donington, 2007), 137–56; Alexander, Nicholas and Akehurst, Gary, “Introduction: The Emergence of Modern Retailing,” Business History 40, no. 4 (1998): 1–15.
83 Deceulaer, “Dealing with Diversity,” 187–89.
84 Bell, Adrian, Brooks, Chris, and Dryburgh, Paul R., The English Wool Market, c.1230–1327 (Cambridge, U.K., 2007), 41–48, 58–63; Britnell, Commercialisation, 98–101, 161–63; Lee, Cambridge and Its Economic Region, 152–59, 165; Lee, John S., “Feeding the Colleges: Cambridge's Food and Fuel Supplies, 1450–1560,” Economic History Review 56 (2003): 243–64.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.
* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.
Usage data cannot currently be displayed