MTI7D International fairs.    (RICHARD BENNETT)

International fairs enabled merchants coming from distant regions to meet one another easier and in easily accessable places. The merchants at these fairs also enjoyed special protection from the local authorities. However some of these authorities were negative towards some visitors, because they were certain foreigners.

At the same time international fairs enabled these local authorities, which usually organised them, to tax and control more easily the foreign traders.

The international fairs of Europe, which grew up from the C12th onwards, atracted many traders from Italy, France, England, Spain, Germany, Flanders, Brabant, Switzerland and Savoy. The notable fairs of this time were the fairs of Champagne and Flander, which have been referred to as what has been called the 'world' economy of the middle ages.

These fairs history, probably dates back to the C10th, but information about them have only been found from 1114 onwards.

The main fairs were held at Troyes in the summer and five lesser fairs around it throughout the year. The goods there were of the utmost variety: cloths and wollens from Flanders and Northern France; silks from Lucca; leather from Spain, Pisa, Africa and Provence; furs from Germany; and linens from Champagne and Germany. The Italians also brought spices, wax, sugar, lacquer and dye-woods. There is also mention of cotton, grain and horses being traded.

It was however the cloth trade which surpassed all others at these international fairs, as the cloth producing araes of the Low Countries and Nortnern France could not sell its cloth anyware else.

However the character of the fairs changed between the 13th and 14th Centuries. At the beginning of the C13th, these fairs were indeed the centre of international commercial activity. But when the Italians acquired the northern cloths from these fairs and began distribution throughout the Mediterranean world, it can be seen that from the late C13th onwards money-changing begins to take precedence over trade. It can be said that the chief function of these fairs now became the regulation of the capital market.

The Champagne fairs declined in the C14th due to two primary factors; first the industrialisation of Italy and secondly the change in the precious metal market from gold to silver. It is now that the fairs of Flanders and the annual fair of Bruges took over as the important international fairs of Europe in the C14th. This was due to the fact that Flanders was a major area in the trade of cloths. The products traded at these fairs, of Flanders and Bruges, were simular to that of the Champagne fairs, although emphasis was now on trade in precious metals and money changing. The Ypres fair is an emphasis of this.

These fairs however started to decline with the emergence of permanent trade in towns.