FAIRS AND MARKETS
The market was the link between town and country, supplying the fruits of specialized industry to the manors and villas of the neighborhood in exchange for foodstuffs and raw materials. It was customarily held once a week around the market cross in the center of the town, or at the entrance gate of some abbey or castle. Supervision was in the hands of the officials of the local magnate or of the gild, and these men were supposed to see that the principle of acqualitas, or fair dealing, was maintained, though it should be remembered that the stranger or foreigner was in practice always at a disadvantage as against those who had borne the burdens and taxes of local gildship and citizenship.
The annual market or fair was what the name implies, a large edition of the weekly market, serving a wider field. It was international in scope, held annually or semiannually, and conducted over a period of days or even weeks. Naturally its dealings were principally in commodities not obtainable locally. The right to conduct a fair, usually granted by the king to a feudal magnate, lay or ecclesiastic, was a jealously guarded privilege by reason of the profits accruing therefrom.
The most famous of all the fairs were the Champagne Fairs, and those held at Novgorod, Aix-la-Chapelle, Geneva, Cologne, Frankfort, Bruges, and Stourbridge. It is estimated that at Florence in the fifteenth century there was an annual turnover of fifteen or sixteen million francs. Special privileges and benedictions were showered on those who attended: freedom to trade and mitigation of tolls and fees, special church ceremonies, speedy justice, and many other inducements were held out to entice merchants to bring their goods and bestow wealth upon the principality. Of course the use of credit developed enormously by reason of the round of fairs