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Medieval Sourcebook:
Matthew Paris:
Grant of a New Fair at Westminster, 1248

The merchant who attended a fair not only had to run the risk of inclement weather but the possibility of the suspension of the fair by the king.

The king then declared it as his pleasure, and ordered it to be proclaimed by herald throughout the whole city of London, and elsewhere, that he instituted a new fair to be held at Westminster, to continue for a fortnight entire. He also strictly interdicted, under penalty of heavy forfeiture and loss, all fairs which usually lasted for such a length of time in England; for instance, that of Ely and other places, and all traffic usually carried on at London, both in and out of doors, in order that by these means the Westminster fair might be more attended by people, and better supplied with merchandise.... But all the merchants, in exposing their goods for sale there, were exposed to great inconveniences, as they had no shelter except canvas tents; for owing to the changeable gusts of wind assailing them, as is usual at that time of the year, they were cold and wet, and also suffered from hunger and thirst; their feet were soiled by the mud, and their goods rotted by the showers of rain....


From: Matthew of Paris, English History, trans. J. A. Giles, (London, 1852), Vol. II, p. 272, 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), pp. 124-125.

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© Paul Halsall, September 1998