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The Origin and Development of Markets: A Business History Perspective

  • Mark Casson and John S. Lee

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.

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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, 5863; 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.

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