Humbert de Romans: On Markets & Fairs, c. 1270
This excerpt gives a realistic picture of the condition of fairs and markets in the
Though markets and fairs are terms often used indiscriminately, there is a difference
between them, for fairs deal with larger things and only once in the year, or at least
rarely in the same place, and to them come men from afar. But markets are for lesser
things, the daily necessaries of life; they are held weekly and only people from near at
hand come. Hence markets are usually morally worse than fairs. They are held on feast
days, and men miss thereby the divine office and the sermon and even disobey the precept
of hearing Mass, and attend these meetings against the Church's commands. Sometimes, too,
they are held in graveyards and other holy places. Frequently you will hear men swearing
there: "By God I will not give you so much for it," or "By God I will not
take a smaller price," or "By God it is not worth so much as that."
Sometimes again the lord is defrauded of market dues, which is perfidy and
disloyalty....Sometimes, too, quarrels happen and violent disputes.... Drinking is
occasioned.... Christ, you may note, was found in the market-place, for Christ is justice
and justice should be there....Thus the legend runs of a man who, entering an abbey, found
many devils in the cloister but in the market-place found but one, alone on a high pillar.
This filled him with wonder. But it was told him that in the cloister all is arranged to
help souls to God, so many devils are required there to induce monks to be led astray, but
in the market-place, since each man is a devil to himself, only one other demon suffices.
From: Bede Jarrett, Social Theories of the Middle Ages, (London: Ernest Benn,
1923), p. 164, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for
Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed.,
New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), p. 113.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998