fair

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

fair

fair, market exhibition at which producers, traders, and consumers meet either to barter or to buy and sell goods and services. Before the development of transportation and marketing, fairs furnished the primary opportunity for the exchange of merchandise, and served as centers of community social life. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans the days of the public market were also used to announce new public laws. In early Christian times special occasions for marketing were frequently attached to religious gatherings, notably those of pilgrims coming to a town to celebrate a special feast. In the Middle Ages fairs were the major means of exchanging commodities not produced for subsistence. Fairs were incorporated by royal charter and had their own officials, laws, and courts. Major trade routes affected the growth of individual fairs; among the most prominent were those of Geneva, Antwerp, Leipzig, Madrid, Burgundy, Lyons, Bordeaux, Novgorod, and Sturbridge and Bartholomew Fair in England. Of the variety of goods traded at such fairs, cloth was probably the most important. The volume of trade was so great that by the 15th cent. some fair towns became banking centers and were subjected to special regulations. With the breaking of the manorial system, commerce became an expanding and regular part of economic life. Trade fairs declined and to a large extent were replaced by outdoor and indoor general markets. In the 17th cent. pleasure fairs, dominated by entertainments such as plays, became popular. The exposition, combining entertainment and commerce, flourishes today. A variety of advanced industrial wares (such as computers) are exhibited, and important technological innovations are displayed. International trade fairs, devoted solely to commercial display and directed toward businessmen, have also become popular since World War II. Agricultural fairs—held to improve farming methods, stocks, and crops—have been particularly important in the history of the United States. Many states and counties still maintain annual fairs, though some have been discontinued. In recent years, specialized fairs, such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, have taken on international significance.

See H. Augur, The Book of Fairs (1939); W. Addison, English Fairs and Markets (1953); C. Walford, Fairs Past and Present (1967); R. Weiss, Fairs, Pavilions, Exhibits and their Audiences (1982).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

fair
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?