Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Until 1284 the County of Champagne was in essence an independent territory, whose count nominally owed fealty to the king of France.
The Champagne fairs
The Champagne fairs were a circuit of six cloth fairs in the towns of Champagne and Brie, changing location every two months and spanning the year from January to October. At their height, in the 13th century, the Champagne fairs linked the cloth-producing cities of the Low Countries with the Italian dyeing and exporting centers. The fairs, which were already well-organized at the start of the century, were one of the earliest manifestations of a linked European economy, which characterizes the High Middle Ages. The towns provided huge warehouses (still to be seen at Provins). From the north came woollens and linen cloth. From the south came pepper and other spices, drugs, coinage and new conceptions 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 (banche) 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. Italian credit was able to exploit every exchange in the process, and Italian cloth merchants, depending on the northern production for their trade in the Levant, became the great bankers of the later Middle Ages.
It was to the interest of the Count of Champagne, virtually independent of his nominal suzerain, the King of France, to extend the liberties and prerogatives of the towns. Traditional historians have dated the decline of the Champagne fairs to the conquest of Champagne by Philip the Bold in 1273 and its inclusion within the Crown of France by Philip IV in 1284. A sea route had been established, inaugurated by the first appearance of Genoese ships in Antwerp in 1277.
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