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fair, market exhibition at which producers, traders, and consumers meet either to barter or to buy and sell goods and services. Before the development of transportation and marketing, fairs furnished the primary opportunity for the exchange of merchandise, and served as centers of community social life. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans the days of the public market were also used to announce new public laws. In early Christian times special occasions for marketing were frequently attached to religious gatherings, notably those of pilgrims coming to a town to celebrate a special feast. In the Middle Ages fairs were the major means of exchanging commodities not produced for subsistence. Fairs were incorporated by royal charter and had their own officials, laws, and courts. Major trade routes affected the growth of individual fairs; among the most prominent were those of Geneva, Antwerp, Leipzig, Madrid, Burgundy, Lyons, Bordeaux, Novgorod, and Sturbridge and Bartholomew Fair in England. Of the variety of goods traded at such fairs, cloth was probably the most important. The volume of trade was so great that by the 15th cent. some fair towns became banking centers and were subjected to special regulations. With the breaking of the manorial system, commerce became an expanding and regular part of economic life. Trade fairs declined and to a large extent were replaced by outdoor and indoor general markets. In the 17th cent. pleasure fairs, dominated by entertainments such as plays, became popular. The exposition, combining entertainment and commerce, flourishes today. A variety of advanced industrial wares (such as computers) are exhibited, and important technological innovations are displayed. International trade fairs, devoted solely to commercial display and directed toward businessmen, have also become popular since World War II. Agricultural fairs—held to improve farming methods, stocks, and crops—have been particularly important in the history of the United States. Many states and counties still maintain annual fairs, though some have been discontinued. In recent years, specialized fairs, such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, have taken on international significance.


See H. Augur, The Book of Fairs (1939); W. Addison, English Fairs and Markets (1953); C. Walford, Fairs Past and Present (1967); R. Weiss, Fairs, Pavilions, Exhibits and their Audiences (1982).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(now more commonly known as trade fair), one of the various kinds of regular trading markets—for example, a periodic market organized at regular intervals at a traditionally established site; a seasonal sale of one or more kinds of goods.

Fairs originated in Europe in the early Middle Ages, at a time when the natural type of economy and economic dissociation prevailed; trade, which was irregular and incidental in character, served primarily the affluent social strata, mainly by supplying them with rare and expensive imported wares. The limited market and unsafe trade routes prompted merchants to join together in caravans for joint trading and to concentrate in specially selected and well-protected sites—for example, by the walls of a castle or monastery—where large numbers of people gathered; such sites were found at the intersection of trade routes and in places where people’s assemblies, large religious festivals, and other public events were held.

In the early Middle Ages, especially where cities had not yet grown into centers of handicraft and trade, fairs played an essential role as the only large-scale barter centers. They grew in significance in the tenth and 11th centuries with the emergence and development of the cities, the growth of urban handicraft production, the inception of domestic markets, the strengthening of international trade relations, and the development of land routes and means of communication. The large-scale fairs were wholesale trade centers that were increasingly dealing in “heavy” goods (bread, wine, ores and metals, salt, and cloth); in addition, seasonal produce was sold at regional and small local fairs. In some instances these two types were combined.

The need to regulate trading practices at the fairs led to the emergence of a special set of laws for the purpose. The owner of the land on which fairs were located received sizable revenues in the form of trade duties and requisitions; therefore the right to arrange trade fairs or to grant permission for them to be held was an important feudal privilege. The privilege was granted, usually by the king, to individual cities and to ecclesiastical or secular seignors.

Fairs often specialized in certain types of goods. Thus, Italian fairs were famous for expensive fabrics and Oriental wares, French fairs for wine and cloth, English fairs for wool, coarse cloth, lead, tin, and coal, South German fairs for wine, Danish fairs for herring, and Swedish fairs for iron and copper. The largest of the fairs were international trading centers; in the 13th century and up to the mid-14th, such were the fairs of the Champagne region, toward which trade and monetary operations converged from all parts of Europe.

By the mid-14th century the fairs in the northern part of France and in the Netherlands had acquired great renown. In the late 14th and in the 15th centuries, Bruges (Flanders) was the largest trade fair and warehouse center. Important centers of European trade in the early 15th century were the Geneva fairs (which we first find mentioned in 1262) and, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the fairs at Lyon, which had replaced Geneva as the center of Europe’s money market; the Lyon fairs, first held in 1420, enjoyed the patronage of the French king. In the 16th century the Spanish city Medina del Campo was an international trade fair and credit center, especially for the southern European countries; fairs were also held in Antwerp. The Leipzig fairs, known from the 13th century, gained international significance in the 18th century.

Fairs played an important role in the development of medieval trade, monetary circulation, the money market, and credit. Money changers, who conducted loan and credit operations, set up their offices at trade fairs. Because of the wholesale nature of trade at the fairs, the inconvenience and danger of transporting large sums of money, and the merchants’ interest in credit trading, increasing use was made of noncash trade transactions by means of written acknowledgment of monetary debts and letters of proxy, which were gradually transformed into promissory notes.

Trade fairs declined in importance during the formative period of capitalism. Direct selling changed into the sale of merchandise by samples and later by standard specifications as well. In the 19th century the large wholesale trade fairs turned into exhibitions of samples; commodity trading at these exhibitions was similar to commodity trading on the stock exchange. The best-known fairs of Western Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries were the international trade fairs held in Leipzig each spring and fall (with fürs and pelts the major sale items). With the growth of wholesale trade and the expansion of regular trading outlets, fairs were no longer used as trading centers. Local merchandise—chiefly agricultural products—continued to be sold at the seasonal markets and at small, regular local markets. Large regional fairs almost disappeared.

International trade fairs after World War II have grown into exhibitions of a commercial nature; samples of merchandise are shown there and, in addition, national- and international-scale trade transactions are concluded. Such trade fairs are practically indistinguishable in character and purpose from regular commercial exhibits and showrooms. The various types of trade fairs include general-purpose fairs, such as those held in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Izmir (Turkey), multibranch fairs, as in Poznari (Poland) and in Paris, and specialized fairs, such as the trade fairs held in Munich for sporting goods and in Basel (Switzerland) for transportation equipment.

Table 1. Sites of major international trade fairs
Socialist countriesDeveloped capitalist countriesDeveloping countries
Brno, Czechoslovakia ...............Hanover, FederalAlgiers, Algeria
Bucharest, Rumania ...............Republic of GermanyBaghdad, Iraq
Budapest, Hungary ...............Lyon, FranceBogotá, Colombia
Leipzig, German ...............Milan, ItalyCairo, Egypt
Democratic Republic ...............Paris, FranceCasablanca, Morocco
Plovdiv, Bulgaria ...............Toronto, CanadaDamascus, Syria
Poznań, Poland ...............Vienna, AustriaIzmir, Turkey
Zagreb, Yugoslavia ............... Lima, Peru

Today’s trade fairs have typically shifted from general-purpose to single-branch fairs—most frequently technical ones—and to consumer goods fairs; various technical means are used to exhibit merchandise, and the trade fairs are combined with scientific and technical congresses and symposia. Thus the general-purpose Leipzig fair was reorganized as a multibranch trade fair and is now both a meeting place for the business world and an important international center of scientific, technical, and economic information.

The basic orientation of international trade fair activity is regulated by the Union of International Fairs, founded in 1925 (headquarters in Paris), which aims at more efficient organization of international trade fairs and promotion of commodity exchanges between states. The union had 94 members in 1974. The average yearly number of visitors to the union’s international trade fair exceeds 50 million.

The sites of the most important trade fairs are shown in Table 1.


Pavlov, K. A. Mezhdunarodnye iarmarki i vystavki. Moscow, 1962.
La Foire. Brüssels, 1954.
Bautier, R. H. Les Foires de Champagne. Brüssels, 1954.
Coornaert, E. “Caractères et mouvement des foires internationales au moyen âge et au XVI siècle.” In Studi in onore di Armando Sapori. Milan, 1957.
In Russia and the USSR. In prerevolutionary Russia, fairs were usually held in conjunction with church festivals. The oldest one, held at Arsk (near Kazan), was known from the 13th century. Because of the robberies suffered by Russian merchants at the hands of the Tatars, Vasilii III forbade all travel to the Arsk fair and in 1524 founded a new fair at Vasil’sursk; this was subsequently shifted to the Zheltovodskii (or Makar’ev) Monastery and became known as the Makar’ev Fair.
With the development of trade relations and the establishment of the Russian centralized state, the trade fairs grew in number and in the volume of financial turnover. They served as centers for the formation of a nationwide market. Their duration ranged from one day to several months. The principal trading items were agricultural products, livestock, horses, handicrafts, industrial goods, fürs, and skins. In 1865 there were 6,500 trade fairs operating in Russia, 35 of which had a turnover of more than 1 million rubles. The largest of the fairs were concentrated in the Ural region (including the Irbit and Menzelinsk fairs) and in the Ukraine (for example, at Kharkov, Poltava, and Rovno).
With the beginning of large-scale railroad construction in the second half of the 19th century, the fairs’ importance in terms of Russia’s domestic trade declined, and the volume of their commodity turnover diminished. The commodity turnover of the main trade fair at Kursk fell from more than 22 million rubles in 1834 to only 800,000 rubles in 1911. In Russia as a whole, however, the number of trade fairs was growing; 16,000 of them were in operation in 1911, with a total turnover of 1 billion rubles. Around 87 percent of them were small fairs held in the villages on religious holidays. There were 23 large-scale trade fairs with a turnover of more than 1 million rubles. The one with the largest turnover was the Nizhny Novgorod Fair; the Irbit Fair was in second place, and the Menovyi Dvor Fair, near Orenburg, in third.
The Ukrainian fairs were very important, especially in the 19th century; the major ones, which lasted from three to four weeks, were held in Kharkov—the Kreshchenskaia, Troitskaia, Us-penskaia, and Pokrovskaia fairs. In 1834 their combined turnover was more than 22 million rubles; in 1913 it was close to 36 million rubles. Among the largest of the trade fairs in the North, the Margaritinskaia Fair in Arkhangel’sk had a turnover of nearly 2 million rubles in 1911. There were also specialized fairs for horses, livestock, and forest products. The Contract Fair in Kiev, which originated in the early 19th century, was a special type of trade fair where wholesale contracts were concluded for the sale and purchase of such products as sugar, bread, metals and coal. Trading at the fairs was governed by special laws, and fair committees were organized to supervise trading at the largest fairs. With the start of World War I, the fairs’ number and volume of turnover decreased.
During the Civil War of 1918–20, no trade fairs were held in Soviet Russia under “War Communism.” The transition to the New Economic Policy brought a revival of the trade fairs, which by 1927 numbered approximately 7,500 in the RSFSR, 15,200 in the Ukrainian SSR, and 417 in the Byelorussian SSR. They were divided into all-Union, republic, oblast, and local fairs. The all-Union category included the Nizhny Novgorod and Baku fairs. Sales by samples and contract sales accounted for most of the turnover at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair. The Baku Fair was an important center for trade with the Eastern countries. Cash sales at these fairs accounted for no more than one-third of the turnover.
Trade fairs were abolished in the USSR in the early 1930’s. They were brought back in the postwar period as a form of state and cooperative trade. Periodic interregional and interrepublic trade fairs, with wholesale transactions and selling based on samples, have been held since 1958. The USSR is an active participant in many international trade fairs.


Chulkov, M. D. Slovar’ uchrezhdennykh v Rossii iarmarok, izdannyi dlia obrashchaiushchikhsia v torgovle. Moscow, 1788.
Spisok sushchestvuiushchikh v Rossiiskoi imperil iarmarok. St. Petersburg, 1834.
Merder, I. K. Konskaia torgovlia v Rossii (Iarmarki). St. Petersburg, 1880.
Denisov, V. I. Iarmarki (K voprosu o pod”eme ekonomicheskikh sil Rossii). Moscow, 1911.
Kandelaki, I. Rol’ iarmarok v russkoi torgovle. St. Petersburg, 1914.
Vsesoiuznye iarmarki i ikh znachenie vo vnutrennei torgovle i torgovle s Voslokom. Moscow, 1926.
Kafengauz, B. B. Ocherki vnutrennego rynka Rossii pervoi poloviny XVIII v. Moscow, 1958.
Dikhtiar, G. A. Vnutrenniaia torgovlia v dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii. Moscow, 1960.
Uchastie Sovetskogo Soiuza v mezhdunarodnykh iarmarkakh i vystavkakh. Moscow, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Generally descriptive of pleasant weather conditions, with regard for location and time of year; it is subject to popular misinterpretation, for it is a purely subjective description; when this term is used in forecasts of the U.S. Weather Bureau, it is meant to imply no precipitation, less than 0.4 sky cover of low clouds, and no other extreme conditions of cloudiness or windiness.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. (of the tide or wind) favourable to the passage of a vessel
2. sunny, fine, or cloudless


a gathering of producers of and dealers in a given class of products to facilitate business
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


An early system on the IBM 705.

[Listed in CACM 2(5):1959-05-16].
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)
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