What Lessons for Economic Development Can We Draw from the Champagne Fairs?
The medieval Champagne fairs are widely used to draw lessons about the institutional basis for long-distance impersonal exchange. This paper re-examines the causes of the outstanding success of the Champagne fairs in mediating international trade, the timing and causes of the fairsâ€™ decline, and the institutions for securing property rights and enforcing contracts at the fairs. It finds that contract enforcement at the fairs did not take the form of private-order or corporative mechanisms, but was provided by public institutions. More generally, the success and decline of the Champagne fairs depended crucially on the policies adopted by the public authorities.
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