Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

The Rise and Fall of Markets in Southeast England

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

The Rise and Fall of Markets in Southeast England

Article excerpt

Cet article analyse l'essor et la chute des marche's dans le sud-est de l'Angleterre, plus particulierement dans les comtes de Kent, Surrey et Sussex. Un bon nombre de marches qui avaient obtenu leur license ne semblent pas avoir pris naissance. Une haute densite de marches dans le Kent confirme l'hypothese que l'accroissement de la commercialisation fut cause, entre autres, par les pouvres et par ceux qui n'etaient pas des proprietaires terrens. Souvent, les seigneurs faisaient d'avantage de profits avec leurs etalages qu'avec les taxes. A partir de la moitie des annees 1390, les revenus commencerent a diminuer et, a la mi-quinzieme siecle, baisserent encore d'avantage. Des boutiques abandonnees et en ruine, de meme que des etalages deserts, devinrent choses courantes, particulierement dans le Weald. Les marches qui desservaient la population industrielle comme dans les secteurs des textiles, avaient plus de chances de survivre et de produire des revenus plus eleves que ceux qui desservaient avant tout les populations rurales de l'arriere-pays.

THE RISE AND FALL OF MARKETS

IN SOUTHEAST ENGLAND

The chronology of market development is well known. In 1086, at the time of the Domesday survey, England had a number of urban communities with markets where food stuffs were exchanged for manufactured or imported goods.(1) These towns, however, were widely scattered. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the interstices were filled in, as new towns and rural markets were established in response to an expanding population and the increasing commercialization of the economy. Market expansion generally halted in 1348-49 as the Black Death dramatically reduced the population, but many existing markets continued to function and flourish since the overall economy remained buoyant. During the fifteenth century, however, as the population fell further and parts of the country experienced a severe recession, market stalls and shops frequently fell into ruins and then were abandoned. As Richard Britnell has already pointed out, "Deserted medieval markets were as much a feature of the age as deserted medieval villages."(2) Yet the mainspring behind these developments is not so clear. How important was institutional support for the growth and success of markets and fairs?(3) Had trading already occurred on a limited scale at a place that subsequently developed a market, or were some markets, like new towns, established from the ground up at the will of the lord? Did lords who fostered small rural markets do so primarily as a service to their tenants, to enable them to pay their rents, or did they hope to profit from them? Lords who protested the encroachment of a neighbouring market always pointed to the loss of their profits, but how much revenue did lords in general receive from markets? What happened to these revenues in the late middle ages, after the onslaught of the Black Death?

To help answer these and other questions, this paper studies market development and its collapse in southeast England -- the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey over three distinct time periods (I) the period of expansion up to 1349, (II) the early impact of the Black Death in the late fourteenth century, and (III) the fifteenth century depression. This region is an especially good one for the study of medieval markets, since the extended coastline facilitated trade with London in one direction and continental ports in another. The region also contained a significant variety of geographical pays, with little good agricultural land in Surrey, fertile and long-settled arable lands in east Kent and along the Sussex coast, and a dense and ancient forest, the Weald in the centre. Patterns of land-holding were also quite different. In the Weald -- whether the land lay in Kent, Surrey, or Sussex -- inhabitants frequently held by assart tenure and lived in isolated farms or scattered hamlets. In much of Sussex, however, people lived in nucleated villages and the land was held under bond tenure and thus burdened with labour services and customary dues. …

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