- "There are very honest people who do not think that they have had a bargain unless they have cheated a merchant."
- –Anatole France
- "All that glisters is not gold; often have you heard that told."
- –William Shakespeare
With development of long-range trade in the Middle Ages, a new type of commerce sprang up - temporary markets, visited by both local and foreign visiting merchants, and also by other men whose trade flourishes in crowds of people (such as jugglers and thieves). These events quickly prove their importance for both trade and culture - in such places commodities are exchanged, but so are ideas, music, books and other stuff. So, they become a necessary step to later development of human sciences.
Historical Context Edit
As foreign trade expanded and craftsmen flourished, in the late Middle Ages a new kind of marketplace sprang up. A facet of European feudalism, a “market town” was one that had the legal right, granted to it by a lord, to have a permanent market; for other towns and villages, and even city neighborhoods, there arose the practice of hosting a market faire. During the faire, travelling merchants and craftsmen would assemble at a designated spot and offer their wares for sale. In time, all sorts joined in the event – entertainers, lawyers, doctors, tax-collectors, and other riff-raff. The faires, lasting just a day or three (and often associated with a saint’s feast day), were usually set up in the precincts of a church or abbey. Except in England where this sort of avarice – the whole “Christ driving the money-lenders from the temple” bit – was seen as a desecration and therefore forbidden by the Statute of Winton enacted during the reign of Edward I (c. 1300 AD).
The local nobles encouraged the establishment of such faires as the merchants were required to pay to set up their tents and booths. Then they usually had to also pay a tax to the king. Everyone got what they wanted: the king and nobles got money (to buy luxuries); the merchants got a profit; the peasants and villagers got new goods, new ideas, and new news.
Over the decades, a large number of these market faires were established by royal charter, the earliest extant being dated 1199. There are also many references in church and government records of faires which do not appear to have a charter; these are described as “prescriptive” … that is they were held by custom. Many of the oldest faires, especially those in urban centers, were prescriptive and had been operating for a century or more … such as the market faire held on the green at Maldon (Essex), first mentioned in writing in 1287 but which may have been in place as early as 916.