Socio-Economic History

Vol. 63, No. 2

Perspectives on market history: a report on the general theme of the 65th Annual Conference of the Socio-Economic History Society

This number is a special edition devoted to the general theme of the 65th annual conference held on the 12th-13th May 1996 at Kyushu University. Besides the four main papers of which the English summaries are published here, H.Takita and Y.Morimoto from the organizing committee took charge of the introduction and conclusion. Comments were provided by A.Isogai, M.Kishimoto and T.Uranagase, chosen as experts of economic theory, Chinese history, and Japanese medieval history respectively.

Inspired by the present radical reexamination of the concept of the market in the social sciences, market history has recently drawn great interest. In the hope of exploring the wide and profound range that market history can offer to today's scholarship, we wished to draw on the results gained by a research project into the socio-economic history of medieval Europe centered on Kyushu University. This has been focussing on the relationship between town and countryside and has paid special attention to the markets linking these two spheres. Three of the main papers of the conference aimed to show the concrete results of this research. The invited paper on Islam was included in view of the strong case for the market nature of Islamic society which has been developed in Islamic studies, currently enjoying a boom in Japan.

Through the conference, it was confirmed that we should expect more market history studies in the future, based on sources from various geographical and chronological frameworks. It was also emphasized that, at the present state of research, we should not consider historical markets only from the viewpoint of the growth of the modern capitalist market. In other words, historical studies should not isolate the market from its environment, as has been done in the past because of too much attention to a neat division of the socio-economic system into market and non-market elements. In order to contribute to today's reconsideration of the market, we should rather concentrate our efforts on clarifying concrete connections between market and non-market in every society.

The position of the market in early medieval Europe: the case of the Paris region in the Carolingian period

After long neglect, the role of the market in the Frankish Kingdom is nowadays drawing the close attention of medieval historians. Some leading specialists of early medieval socio-economic history, such as W.Bleiber, P.Johanek and J.-P.Devroey, maintain with one accord that the market was an essential component of Carolingian society. Nevertheless, its place in the early medieval socio-economic system has not yet been sufficiently elucidated. This paper is an attempt to approach this problem through the case of the Paris region in the ninth century.

In the Paris area, a lot of people from various social strata gathered regularly in markets comprising two categories: bases of overseas trade and centers of local commerce. The articles most frequently traded were grain and wine. It can be said that one of the most important roles of the market in Carolingian society was the supply of necessities to all the inhabitants of the territory.

While markets provided close connections among various social groups, two of these groups were particularly noteworthy as agents in market transactions: small proprietors and ecclesiastical organizations. The former traded at markets in order to make a profit. Their desire for gain brought them on occasion to practice speculation or unfair trade; however it should be pointed out that such practices were an integral part of their overall economic activities, which contributed to accelerate the influx of merchandise to markets. The latter group, purchasing necessities in large quantities, not only for self-consumption but also for the relief of the poor, and selling them at moderate prices, made an effort to realize a just and fair distribution of essential goods. Moreover, through the imposition of money rents, ecclesiastical organizations as landlords forced their peasants to put agricultural products on the market. Thus various motives, on the part of different social groups, brought merchandise of primary importance to markets and activated the system of distribution.

Masahiko YAMADA
Markets and feudal powers in the classical middle ages: the case of twelfth-century Flanders

Feudalisation put public administration in the hands of regional or local lords, such as counts, and other holders of public titles. In the economic life of Flanders, the counts, as the first inheritors of public institutions, had to create weekly markets in their castle towns in response to public demand. At the second level of feudalisation, it became impossible for the counts to organize all the local markets by themselves. They thus chose to give formal confirmation to the markets instituted by other feudal lords in the periphery of their counties. As for the old markets belonging to ecclesiastical organizations, the counts applied a differential policy in order to incorporate them into the new market system which was in construction. For example, the market of Poperinghe, an estate of Saint-Bertin abbey constituting a developed regional center, was recognized in 1187 by the count of Flanders as a public one, while the commercial settlement of Arques, another estate of Saint-Bertin, was not promoted to a formal market, probably because its location was too close to the prosperous town of Saint-Omer. On the other hand, in some big towns the counts of Flanders conceded the administration of markets to rich townsmen or to the town government. Through this process, the Flemish market system developed a complex structure where the interests of all the classes were in play and their attitude towards public and civil institutions shaped itself.

One of the results of this development was that the counts and other lay lords became less arbitrary towards the people in the enforcement of their power. As commerce became more active and widespread, they were obliged to consolidate social institutions for marketing, like the protection of traffic or smooth monetary circulation. Particularly for the lesser lords, it was important to assure safe-conduct in their territories in order to strengthen their authority. On the whole, the establishment of a market system in feudal Flanders conferred more public character not only on the markets themselves, but also on the local powers involved. Another important conclusion is that, despite the intense involvement of lords in the market, they should not be seen as its creators. It would be more accurate to say that they were coordinating the social and economic forces which were at play.

Hiromichi TAKITA
Economy, society, and institution in late medieval Cologne: towards market history as "social integration" analysis

The institutional framework of the grain and bread market in Cologne can be summarized as follows: The most important element was the price and weight rating carried out by the two mayors. On the basis of the weekly report on the market situation forwarded by the town official called the "grain-measurer", they calculated the medium prices (not the mean prices) at which the bakers were required to provide bread. This rating represented a consensus between the town authority and the bakers concerning a fair price for grain. In the same way, public bread-scales were set up in order to implement the fair provision of bread, on the basis of a similar consensus between the town authority and the townsmen. Established in the period from the 1470s to the 1490s, this institutional framework was conditioned by the emerging socio-economic situation, in which the importance of wage-labour in handicraft production was becoming increasingly clear.

At the same time, Cologne exerted a strong influence on the grain traffic in the surrounding countryside. While the town authority wished, and tried, to concentrate the grain trade on Cologne's public markets through the prohibition of preemption etc., it never imposed a grain price rate on these markets, nor did it resort to direct coercion such as a staple policy. The same was true of its relations with territorial states in the region. Reciprocal friendship agreements were drawn up to secure the safe transport of provisions at all times. When common measures had to be taken regarding grain exports or brewing, the initiative almost always came from the town authority. It was aided by its gigantic financial power, and by accurate information about harvests, obtained through its extensive commercial networks. It was not fortuitous that the term "gemeinland", meaning a region with a common demand for, and supply of, grain, began to appear in documents of the 1430s.

Thus the grain and bread market in Cologne, whose operations were not based on the enforcement of extra-economic regulations, but on the consensus elaborated between different social groups through certain game-rules, played an essential part in the integration of all the socio-economic interests in the region.

Hiroshi KATO
Islamic society as a market society

In the discussion on civilizations in his famous work, The Muqaddimah (An Introduction to History), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), one of the most eminent Arab historians in Medieval Islam, defined the town as a space in which technology and money are accumulated, and as an economic center which governs its rural hinterland. In other words, he identified the town with a huge market for labor and technology as well as merchandise. As his discussion shows so well, Islamic society in the pre-modern age was a market society of a kind, in which not only the economic but also the political and social order basically depended on the exchange of resources in the market, and the reciprocal and distribution function of wealth and income in society was effected wholly through market exchanges, to use Karl Polanyi's terms.

As is well known, a market society has to be supported by socio-economic institutions taken in a broad sense, which ensure private property rights and the validity of contracts and allow the operation of smooth and constant exchange in daily life. The law and monetary systems in Islamic society were developed enough to play their roles as institutions for the promotion of market exchange. Social classes and the state were linked to each other through market exchanges, and played their respective parts in society. In this small essay, the waqf (Islamic charitable endowment) system is selected as a typical institution for promoting economic integration in Islamic society. Some characteristics of Islamic society as a market society are pointed out through analyzing the management of waqf properties, based on the Islamic law and monetary systems, and the overall role of the waqf system in Islamic society.