Friday, September 11, 2009

Perodic Market Systems

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


  1. As far as this market system goes it sounds a lot like Trader Jack's flea market. I would like to go to the flea market on a Tuesday but alas they are only there on the weekend. Flea markets are known for haggling which certainly happened in the past. I think that although this system declined it is not completely extinct today. There are a lot "merchants" at the flea market; perhaps it is for security from the threat of raiders or because they realize that the market place becomes stronger when there is a variety of products. I wish and pray that the present system becomes obsolete and that periodic markets once again become popular; because flea markets are awesome.

  2. I do believe it's inevitable in time that our system will become extinct and replaced by a new more efficient system. The periodic markets declined when they found cheaper quicker routes of travel, they established systems of credit, and other advances. At some point, our society will discover a new more efficient way of transporting goods as opposed to shipping, maybe through scientific advances such as quantum physics, that will replace the current methods. We're constantly evolving and the change is bound to come at some point, whether it be now, or in hundreds of years.