How Were Markets and Fairs an Important Part of Medieval Life?

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Lesly Kurian

8 June 2007

“First of all, there are the hucksters who sell food to the public, the beer sellers, the publicans, and then the weavers. Not far off are the drapers, and then the parchment sellers’ pitch. Then the open space where they sell uncured skins and wool…Here comes the people leading the animals- cows, oxen, ewes and pigs, and men selling horses, the best you can buy, mares, foals, and palfreys, suitable for counts and kings.” Many people came to buy items from markets and fairs, including the 13th century poet who described a typical market (Pierre and Sabbagh 54).

Markets were important to daily life because most of the items people bought there, they couldn’t grow or make themselves. People also made a living by selling goods there. Going to markets also gave people a chance to see goods produced in other towns (MacDonald 8). Markets were held once a week and usually lasted for a day or two (9).

Since many towns were built near rivers, merchants could easily come to them and set up stalls and tents (Grant). In the center of town, there was a large space for stalls to be set up. In wealthy towns, markets were held in grand halls or covered by a canvas roof from the weather. In the market, officials checked and measured items and identified fake money (Mac Donald 9).

Merchants sold an incredible variety of items for daily life; food, utensils, tools, clothing, art, and combs (“Markets and Fairs”, MacDonald 8). Rich merchants set up stalls to sell these items. However, peasants who came to sell their goods couldn’t afford stalls, so they were forced to display on the ground. Even worse, they had to pay a tax if they displayed on the ground (“Markets and Fairs”)! Superstitions were strong in markets too! In a typical market, a cross or holy statue was placed in the center to protect customers from any danger (MacDonald 9)!

Eventually, merchants started visiting and trading in other areas. By...