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Medieval Sourcebook:
Humbert de Romans: On Markets & Fairs, c. 1270

This excerpt gives a realistic picture of the condition of fairs and markets in the Middle Ages.

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 Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 1998