Janet Abu-Lughod discusses the periodic market system in depth throughout the early sections of chapter two in Before European Hegemony. Periodic markets were the result of societies which were scarce in population, had low levels of development and were faced with poor means of transportation. In these markets, a merchant would bring goods to sell or trade to customers on regular schedule, usually on a weekly basis. These markets would continuously move to new location each day causing its patrons to also constantly keep moving. The merchants would bring their manufactured or imported goods to the site of the first market, complete their transactions, pack their remaining goods and head for the next days marketplace. This was a continuous cycle for the merchants. These markets originally dealt in barter, but as the larger itinerant merchants began to show interest, the need for a currency became apparent. Also, they would need to have someone act as the money changer. This is where the credit process began. A farmer would order a specific item from a merchant and then would either give credit, by paying in advance, or get credit by promising to pay upon receiving the item. However, if the farmer doesn’t have the full amount, he could place a down payment on the item. Now, the farmer could borrow money and repay it in time, or borrow against their mortgage by giving up part of their harvest in return for the product. The result of this was the introduction of a complex economic system.
I found the measures of security taken by the merchants to be extremely interesting. As merchants transported valuable goods over long distances, it was important to find a way to ensure their caravans made it to market. Traveling through poor regions with their expansive goods was an invitation for local raiders. Merchants would travel in these large caravans to ensure their safety, and even employee their own guards to protect their cargo.
My question is do you think, based on the evidence provided Janet Abu-Lughod in Before European Hegemony on the decline of this system that this could happen to our system some day? Change is inevitable; we are always thinking of new and better ways to do something so what are the chances of our system becoming obsolete? Dan Loheyde