Medieval fairs - birth ground of multinational enterprise

The Medieval fairs of Northern France, which were already well-organized at the start of the 12th century, were one of the earliest manifestations of a linked European economy, a characteristic of the High Middle Ages. 

 From the later 12th century, the fairs of the Champagne region in northern France, conveniently sited on ancient land routes and largely self-regulated through the development of the Lex mercatoria, the "merchant law", dominated the commercial and banking relations operating at the frontier region between the north and the Mediterranean.

The towns provided huge warehouses, still to be seen at Provins. Furs and skins traveled in both directions, from Spain, Sicily, and North Africa in the south via Marseilles, and the highly-prized vair, rabbit, marten and other skins from the north. From the north also came woolens and linen cloth. From the Islamic south came silk, pepper and other spices, drugs, coinage and the new concepts of credit and bookkeeping. Goods converged from Spain, travelling along the well-established pilgrim route from Santiago de Compostela and from Germany. Once the cloth sales had been concluded, the reckoning of credit at the tables of Italian money-changers effected compensatory payments for goods, established future payments on credit, made loans to princes and lords, and settled bills of exchange which were generally worded to expire at one of the Champagne fairs. 

Even after trade routes had shifted away from the north-south axis that depended on the Champagne commodities fairs, the fairs continued to function as an international clearing house for paper debts and credits, as they had built up a system of commercial law, regulated by private judges separate from the feudal social order and the requirements of scrupulously maintaining a "good name", prior to the third-party enforcement of legal codes by the nation-state.

As such Troyes' geographic key position, the concentration of expertise on international trade, coinage and credit, all under the protection of the lords of the Earldom of the Champagne, was the ideal site for sparking, founding and harbouring the first "multinational enterprise" on trade and finance: the Knights Templar.

sources: wikipedia themes on Troyes and Champagne fairs; source illustration Medieval Market, source Wikimedia, Public Domain

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patrontipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

No comments: