A History of the Economic Institutions of Modern Europe: An Introduction of der Moderne Kapitalismus of Werner Sombart

By Frederick L. Nussbaum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MARKET: (II) BUYING AND SELLING

THE selling of goods in the Middle Ages had three distinctive features: (1) periodicity; (2) extensive peddling and other migrant forms of merchandising--the merchant wandering in search of the buyer; (3) a highly personal exchange, which was always performed by direct contact between buyer and seller. In this chapter we have to inquire where and to what extent these characteristics of distribution persisted in the period of early capitalism and what changes they underwent during these centuries. We shall see the transition from the periodical exchanges of the markets and fairs to permanent selling establishments open all the year round; and the transition from the personal contact of the buyer and seller to what we shall call long-distance buying. In summary, we shall see depersonalization, materialization, mechanization. This development was favored by the increasing luxury demand, which affected powerfully the forms of retail trade, by the increasing bulk demand of the armies and the cities, and by the increasing importance of oversea commerce, which contributed greatly to the development of warehouse commerce. Without the development of the means of communication which we have just surveyed, it would have been impossible.


THE DEVELOPMENT OF SETTLED RETAILING AND WHOLESALING

Peddling remained important throughout the early capitalistic period. Tobacco, tea, coffee, sugar, and spices, during the seventeenth and especially the eighteenth century, were distributed

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