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The Rationale of Periodic Markets

Author(s): R. J. Bromley, Richard Symanski and Charles M. Good

Source: Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 65, No. 4 (Dec., 1975), pp.
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American Geographers
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ABSTRACT. The origin and persistence of periodic markets are explained in

terms of the needs of producers, the traditional organization of time, inertia, and
comparative advantage. Producers often wish to buy or sell in the marketplace on
only one or two days per week in order not to disrupt their production schedule.

The week customarily has days set aside for work, rest, ceremonies, and commerce;
such temporal patterns may be ordained by civil or religious authorities. Authorities
may fix market days and locations, although the initial stimuli for foundation are
usually the development of social stratification, the division of labor, and long-dis-

tance trade. Both part-time trading and designation of special days for commerce
encourage the foundation of periodic markets. After markets have been established,

inertia and comparative advantage maintain periodicity long after daily operations
would be economically feasible. KEY WORDS: Economic location theory, Exogenous theory of trade, Institutional context, Origin conditions, Periodic markets,
Space-time periodicity.
M OST explanations for periodic markets

and mobile trading have been cast in an

economic mold devoid of social and cultural

factors and lacking circular and cumulative
causation or positive feedback.' Even anthropologists have applied economic location
Accepted for publication 17 March 1975.

Dr. Bromley is Lecturer in Social Administration at

the University College of Swansea, Wales; Dr. Symanski is Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Texas in A ustin, TX 78712; and Dr. Good is
Associate Professor of Geography at the Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA 24061.

* The authors wish to thank the University Research

Institute at the University of Texas at Austin for financial assistance, and Ronald Briggs, Kingsley E.
Haynes, J. Barry Riddell, Carol A. Smith, and an
anonymous referee for helpful comments on a draft of
this paper.

1 James H. Stine, "Temporal Aspects of Tertiary

Production Elements in Korea," in F. R. Pitts, ed.,

theory to explain periodic markets and the

functions of different settlements within regional social systems.' Some scholars have
emphasized the social functions of market trade
and the role of local authorities and privileged
trading groups, but the overemphasis of economic location theory in current thinking has
not received sufficient critical evaluation. This
paper focuses on society, custom, and tradition
to explain the existence and persistence of periodic markets.
2 G. W. Skinner, "Marketing and Social Structure in
Rural China," Journal of Asian Studies, Part I, Vol. 24
(1964), pp. 5-31; Carol A. Smith, "Market Articulation and Economic Stratification in Western Guatemala," Food Research Institute Studies, Vol. 11
(1972), pp. 203-33; Lawrence W. Crissman, "Marketing on the Changhua Plain, Taiwan," in W. E. Willmott, ed., Economic Organization in Chinese Society
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), pp. 21559; and Stuart Plattner, "Rural Market Networks,"
Scientific American, Vol. 232 (May 1975), pp. 66-79.
3 Works emphasizing social and institutional factors
include S. W. Mintz, "Pratik: Haitian Personal Economic Relations," in Viola E. Garfield, ed., American

Countries," Geographical Analysis, Vol. 3 (1971), pp.

393-401; and N. A. Alao, "Theoretical Issues in the
Geographical Dimensions of Market Periodicity," Nigerian Geographical Journal, Vol. 15 (1972), pp. 97-

Ethnological Society Proceedings, Annual Spring

Meeting for 1961 (Seattle: American Ethnological
Society, 1961), pp. 54-63; Polly Hill, "Notes on Traditional Market Authority and Market Periodicity in
West Africa," Journal of African History, Vol. 7
(1966), pp. 295-311; and Marc Piault, "Cycles de
Marches et 'Espaces' Socio-Politiques," in Claude
Meillassoux, ed., The Development of Indigenous
Trade and Markets in West Af rica (London: Oxford


University Press, 1971), pp. 285-302.

Urban Systems and Economic Development (Eugene,

Oregon: University of Oregon, School of Business
Administration, 1962), pp. 68-88. Other examples of
economic approaches are Alan M. Hay, "Notes on the
Economic Basis for Periodic Marketing in Developing

? 1975 by the Association of American Geographers. Printed in U.S.A.


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We postulate that exchange systems and pat-



monies, or public gatherings and festivities.6

terns vary with types of society, and are

In the Americas the accepted week is seven

founded upon value systems shaped by cultural

days. In Africa the indigenous market week

processes. Exchange patterns are among the

ranges from two to eight days, and in China it

most important social relationships which bind

society together, and they impinge on all as-

social institutions already existed when regular

pects of social life. Trade is a concrete form of

exchange, and thus may serve as a major index of social structure. A full understanding
of trading institutions must be based not only
on the study of contemporary economic pro-

cesses, but also on the social context and historical development of commercial activity.

We believe that periodic markets result from

and persist because of the needs of producers,
the organization of time, inertia, and comparative advantage.
The Needs of Producers

Many of the earliest local traders were producers seeking an outlet for their goods or the
means to obtain other commodities, and their
customers were usually also producers. As a
result, early markets had to be adapted to the

requirements of producers trading part-time

rather than to the needs of full-time traders.
Periodicity was an advantage for most market

participants because their economic roles were

diverse. The majority of traders, even in many
contemporary markets, are part-time, have two
or more different occupations, and engage in
some form of primary or secondary production.5

The Organization of Time

may be ten or twelve days. Many economic and

trading institutions began to develop. In most

parts of the world early trading institutions had

to be coordinated with a calendar defined by
the routine of production, religion, administration, rest, and recreation.

Inertia and Comparative Advantage

Mackinder's dictum that "no human settlement is more difficult to supplant than an

established market" suggests that market locations and periodicities cannot be explained
simply by present-day patterns.7 One must consider when the first markets were established,
how long they had been in existence, and what
comparative advantages they possessed when
other markets were founded.8 Even the earliest
market centers had scale economies and other
perceived advantages for traders and consumers, so established market locations and
periodicities had a strong tendency to persist.
Some unpopular market sites and timings were
eventually supplanted, but circular and cumulative causation reinforced the importance of
initially successful markets.9 Inertia probably
impeded the adjustment of market systems to
new developments, delayed changes in market
locations and periodicity, and facilitated the
persistence of traditional patterns.

tence of days set aside for rest, religious cere-

6 Hutton Webster, Rest Days: A Study in Early Law

and Morality (New York: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 10123; and Martin P. Nilsson, Primitive Time Reckoning
(Lund, Sweden: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1920), pp. 324-36.
7 Quoted in J. Bird, "Billingsgate: A Central Metropolitan Market," Geographical Journal, Vol. 124

4 Cyril S. Belshaw, Traditional Exchange and Modern Markets (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1965),

8 Charles M. Good, Rural Markets and Trade in

East Africa, Research Paper No. 128 (Chicago: University of Chicago, Department of Geography, 1970),

Periodic market gatherings are related to

sociocultural concepts of time, to the length of

the accepted week or month, and to the exis-

pp. 5-9 and 78-79.

5 For example, John Whitman, "The Kolkhoz Mar-

ket," Soviet Studies, Vol. 7 (1956), p. 384; and ChingKun Yang, A North China Local Market Economy: A
Summary of a Study of Periodic Markets in Chowping,
Hsien, Shantung (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1944, mimeo), p. 10; and R. J. Bromley, "Periodic and Daily Markets in Highland Ecuador," unpublished doctoral dissertation, Cambiidge University,
1975, pp. 298-323.

(1958), p. 464.

pp. 170-225.

9 Positive feedback is discussed in Gunnar Myrdal,

Economic Theory and Underdeveloped Regions (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1957), pp. 11-22; M. Maruyama, "The Second Cybernetics: Deviation Amplifying
Mutual Causal Processes," American Scientist, Vol. 51
(1963), pp. 164-79; and Allan R. Pred, The Spatial
Dynamics of U.S. Urban-industrial Growth, 18001914: Interpretive and Theoretical Essays (Cambridge,
Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1966), pp. 15-32.

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Most areas of the world with periodic markets have sufficient trading activity to support
full-time fixed traders dealing in most types of
merchandise. Indeed, periodic markets often
coexist with fixed shops which sell the same

types of goods. In spite of the possibility of

daily operation, however, many markets persist on a periodic basis.
Persistent periodicity poses serious difficul-

ties for models which attempt to explain periodic markets and mobile trading by using the
notions of range of a good and firm threshold
(the firm usually corresponds to an individual
trader). The basic economic model states that

periodic marketing will result whenever firm

threshold exceeds the range of a good, or whenever the minimum number of customers required to support a firm is less than the number
of potential customers living within the dis-

tance a customer will travel to purchase that

good.10 The model says that periodic marketing
of frequently consumed goods will be replaced

by permanent shops or daily markets where

there is a high density of demand and a low
friction of distance. This model, like later refinements, accounts for periodic marketing once
it exists, but not for genesis, or how it came to

Most periodic markets are primarily rural,

and many of the larger ones are bulking centers

for local produce moving toward urban centers. Rural periodic markets frequently operate
side by side with urban daily markets, and
many periodic markets in small towns have a
substantial number of fixed, daily traders. The

coexistence of rural periodic and urban daily

markets indicates a potential transition toward
permanent commercial activities in modernizing urban areas.12 The logical end of this transi10 Stine, op. cit., footnote 1, pp. 73-78.
11 Theoretical works more general than Stine are
Hay, op. cit., footnote 1; and M. J. Webber and
Richard Symanski, "Periodic Markets: An Economic
Location Analysis," Economic Geography, Vol. 49
(1973), pp. 213-27. Webber and Symanski treated the
complex issue of agglomeration which, in our analysis,
results mainly from historical development and inertia
rather than from vendor strategies.
12 Shiw Mangal Singh, "The Stability Theory of Rural Central Place Development," National Geographical Journal of India, Vol. 11 (1965), pp. 13-21; B. W.
Hodder and U. I. Ukwu, Markets in West Africa:
Studies of Markets and Trade Among the Yoruba and




tion is a large daily market with permanent

shops and retail and wholesale market areas.
In many large cities, however, periodic mar-

kets persist as weekly peaks of activity at daily

market sites, or as separate weekly markets
apart from the urban daily markets.13 These
markets are used by part-time and/or mobile
traders, and the mobile traders may have cycli-

cal itineraries within the urban area, visiting

different markets each day of the week.'4 Although the majority of market activity in large

cities is usually daily in character, periodic

markets may persist for several generations.
The Andean countries have striking examples
of persistent periodicity. Large towns with over
30,000 inhabitants have strong market gatherings on one day and relatively little trading ac-

tivity the rest of the week.15 Most of the principal traders are middlemen, not producers.
Economic reasoning would predict that they
would sell on a full-time basis in one place,

since the demand at each center is sufficient to

support fixed full-time trading.16 Because demand is concentrated in weekly markets, however, most traders can make more profit by
selling in a number of different markets. Population growth, urbanization, transport improvement, and increases in per capita demand place

new demands upon periodic market systems,

but inertia insures that systemic changes are

delayed, and the actual pattern of market
activity differs from that which might be
deemed rational from an analysis of the contemporary situation.

The problem of identifying the completion

of the transition from periodic to continuous
Ibo (Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, 1969), p. xii;
and B. W. Hodder, "Periodic and Daily Markets in
West Africa," in Meillassoux, op. cit., p. 352.
13 For example, R. J. Bromley, "The Organization
of Quito's Urban Markets: Towards a Reinterpretation
of Periodic Central Places," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, No. 62 (1974), pp. 4570; Yue-man Yeung, "Periodic Markets: Comments
on Spatio-Temporal Relationships," Professional Geographer, Vol. 26 (1974), pp. 147-51; and Kathryn L.
Buzzacott, "London's Markets: Their Growth, Characteristics and Functions," unpublished doctoral dissertation, London University, 1972, p. 105.
14 Bromley, op. cit., footnote 13, pp. 64-67.
15 Richard Symanski, "Periodic Markets of Andean
Colombia," unpublished doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1971, pp. 66-104; and Bromley, op.
cit., footnote 5, pp. 219-38.
16Webber and Symanski, op. cit., footnote 11, pp.

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marketing remains complex. For example, most

and markets cannot originate from local de-

daily markets in the forest zone of West Africa

were originally periodic markets, and many

mands, but must be based on external relations.

Local markets are seen to originate from the

market authorities continue to look upon them

stimulus of outside traders and the availability

as "glorified periodic markets."1 Such an attitude may help account for the fact that many
daily markets have inadequate facilities, insufficient locked storage space, anachronistic taxation, and no integration of market and parking areas.18

of nonlocal goods.21
Most of the African evidence supports the
exogenous theory of market origins, pointing

to a close association between the growth of

markets and the development of regular inter-

regional communication.22 Markets require

economically complementary societies, and


agents whose social position frees them from

Concepts thought to bear on the genesis of

markets include: "subsistence oriented" vs.
"market oriented" trade and the significance of
currency systems; the importance of "polity
primacy" in the allocation of resources in a
society; the relationship between the marketplace and the "market principle;" and elements such as ecological and cultural comple-

obligatory participation in traditional prestation

mentarity, population thresholds, and distance

One conventional theory of market origins
argues that an individual's propensity to barter
creates a need for local small-scale exchange,
division of labor, and marketplaces. This "endogenous theory" sees markets as originating
from local exchanges and demands. Eventually
the scale of local trading activity increases and
generates external relations and long-distance
trade.20 A competing "exogenous theory" reverses the order of events, and argues that trade

and personalized gift exchange.23 This theory is

supported by the lack of markets in areas where
economic relations are dominantly person-toperson, where foreign traders are not active,
and by the numbers of markets on the borders
of complementary economic zones.24
Markets did not originate as places for local
subsistence producers to dispose of their "surplus" production; their growth signified an increasingly specialized division of labor and a
growing exploitation of regional complemen-

tarity.25 Market structures came to coexist

alongside prestation systems and are often interlinked with them.26

Insights into the origin of early markets may

be obtained from the concept of "peripheral

markets." Early markets are seen as playing
only a limited socioeconomic role, and market
sales are not the dominant source of material

livelihood of the entire economy.27 Few people

17 Hill, op. cit., footnote 3, p. 309.
18 Ann Norton and Richard Symanski, "The Internal Marketing Systems of Jamaica," Geographical Re-

are engaged in producing for the market or

selling in the market, and those who are so

view, Vol. 65 (1975), forthcoming.

19 Richard Gray and David Birmingham, eds., Pre-

21 Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities (Princeton: Prince-

Colonial Trade: Essays on Trade in Central and Eastern Africa before 1900 (London: Oxford University

ton University Press, 1925), pp. 75-91; Max Weber,

General Economic History (London: George Allen

Press, 1970), pp. 3-23; V. C. Uchendu, "Polity Primacy and African Economic Development," Proceedings of the University of East Africa Social Sciences

and Unwin, 1927), pp. 202-22; and Karl Polanyi, C.

Conference, Dar es Salaam, 1970; J. Barry Riddell, "A

Note on the Origin Conditions of Periodic Marketing
Systems," in W. P. Adams and F. M. Helleiner, eds.,
International Geography 1972 (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1972), Vol. 1, pp. 584-86; Charles M.
Good, "Markets in Africa: A Review of Research
Themes and the Question of Market Origins," Cahiers
d'Etudes Africaines, Vol. 13 (1973), pp. 769-80; and
Paul Bohannan and George Dalton, eds., Markets in
Africa (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University
Press), pp. 1-26.
20 B. W. Hodder, "Some Comments on the Origins
of Traditional Markets in Africa South of the Sahara,"
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers,
No. 36 (1965), pp. 97-105.

M. Arensberg, and H. W. Pearson, eds., Trade and

Market in the Early Empires (Glencoe, Illinois: Free
Press, 1957).

22 Hodder, op. cit., footnote 20; Good, op. cit., footnote 8, pp. 193-205; and Good, op. cit., footnote 19,
pp. 771-78.

23 Prestation technically is "an exchange system in

which giving may be used to create social obligations;"
Belshaw, op. cit., footnote 4, p. 48.

24 Meillassoux, op. cit., footnote 3, pp. 82-83.

25 The idea of economic surplus "is a red herring
because only chance accident can produce a surplus
over and above planned expectations of the producer
who markets to obtain specific needed goals," Belshaw,
op. cit., footnote 4, p. 78.

26 Belshaw, op. cit., footnote 4, pp. 75-76.

27 Bohannan and Dalton, op. cit., footnote 19, p. 7.

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engaged are only part-time marketers. Their




exchange, and ceremonial activities. In the

livelihood comes largely from nonmarket

post-Columbian Americas, as in medieval

spheres of economy.

Europe, the church, the plantation, and the

Division of labor was an essentially social

phenomenon with economic exchange implications; marketless societies, such as the Kwakiutl or the South Sea Islanders, which were just
as materially wealthy as the Ibo of Nigeria or
the rural Guatemalan Indian, "did not develop
market places because the social system was
not based to the same degree upon differentiated social roles, and hence specialized division

feudal estate often determined market days. In

of labor."28

days of the week. As the number of market

We can conclude, therefore, that markets

normally originated in stratified societies with
sharp divisions of labor and strong external
links and influences. External traders played
an important role in stimulating local market
foundations, and most local participants in
early markets were primarily engaged in economic activities outside the marketplace.

centers increased, however, a growing number


In the societies where periodic markets first

developed, exchanges of goods demanded a
mutually convenient time and place, and one
or both parties had to travel to a common
place of trade. As information spread about
exchange, potential traders and customers had
to know where and when to meet.29 Very early
in the history of trading the time and place for
commercial gatherings had to be standardized.
Local traders and consumers were usually
also producers, and they could not go to market

as whim dictated. By mutual agreement they

may have chosen to trade on a traditional rest
day, or on a day when they were accustomed to
converge upon a central place for social and
religious activities, or to hear proclamations
and pay tribute to, or receive alms from, the
local authorities.30 Markets were often held
periodically to coincide with existing periodic

In many areas market days were originally

ordained by a small ruling class concerned with
the organization and taxation of production,
28 Belshaw, op. cit., footnote 4, p. 78.
29 Paul Bohannan, "The Impact of Money on an
African Subsistence Economy," Journal of Economic

History, Vol. 19 (1959), pp. 491-503; and Weber,

op. cit., footnote 21, p. 214.
30 Hodder and Ukwu, op. cit., footnote 12, p. 129;

and L. F. Salzman, English Trade in the Middle Ages

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931), pp. 123-28.

highland Ecuador, for example, the tradition

of Sunday markets was established early in the

Spanish colonial period to enable the rural

population to make one dual purpose journey
to the nearest town each week to attend mass
and market. The concentration of trading on
Sunday allowed uninterrupted primary and
secondary production on the remaining six

of priests objected to the distraction from religious devotions, and neighboring centers increasingly came into competition with one another as commerce expanded. Professional
market traders favored different market days
in different settlements, so they could work
full-time. Municipal authorities usually argued

that changing established patterns might dam-

age commerce in the market center and its area.

In the nineteenth century a series of decrees

changed market days in the principal centers

of highland Ecuador from Sundays to other

days. Individual local authorities made their

own decisions through a process of trial and
error, and some authorities reversed their decisions, or changed their market day several

In Africa south of the Sahara the length of

the traditional "market week" has remarkable
variety.2 Two- to eight-day weeks are traditional in West Africa.33 Attempts to explain
how and why these weeks evolved have been
confounded. Some market weeks conform to
ethnic territories, but others cut across them.
The length of market weeks does not correlate
with ecological gradients, and the Islamic sevenday week has no consistent association with
31 Rosemary D. F. Bromley and R. J. Bromley,
"The Debate on Sunday Markets in Nineteenth Century Ecuador," Journal of Latin American Studies,
32 Two primary sources which deal with market

periodicity in West Africa are N. W. Thomas, "The

Week in West Africa," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 54 (1924), pp. 183-209; and
Willy Frbhlich, "Das afrikanische Marktwesen," Zeitschrift ffi Ethnologie, Vol. 72 (1940), pp. 253-66.
33 These weeks are mapped in R. H. T. Smith, "West
African Market-Places: Temporal Periodicity and Locational Spacing," in Meillassoux, op. cit., footnote 3,
p. 323.

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areas which were influenced by Muslim merchants. These indigenous market weeks are
tenacious, they provide continuity with the past,
and they show little sign of yielding to the contemporary Western week, which is otherwise
dominant in Africa. In contrast, seven-day market schedules or multiples thereof predominate
in East Africa, where most marketplaces are
colonial innovations.

Initial exchanges between individuals probably occurred in a home, at a ceremonial center, or at a chance meeting place. Since market
trade was "primarily induced by external exchanges of complementary products with an
alien population," security of trade was an essential precondition.34 In precolonial East Africa, for example, Arab traders relied on firepower for safety in the interior. They also collaborated with African traders to gain peaceful
access to African communities, where they
could offer specialized skills and stimulate demand for trade goods. Even in times of war
some communities allowed women traders to
travel freely between ethnic territories.35 Both
in East and West Africa, blood-brother relationships were developed between traders and
local people to provide safe passage and to



tary production zones.38 The relative importance of these criteria varies considerably from
one part of the world to another. Markets are

usually situated at communications nodes in

areas of dispersed settlement, but they may be
in or between settlements in areas of dispersed
Our understanding of the persistence of periodic markets can be advanced by a hypothetical reconstruction of the early development of
markets. In the early stages of market development local traders probably gave little thought

to selling on a full-time basis or to cyclical

movements between market centers. It is improbable that these ideas were seriously con-

sidered before a few market traders could, in

theory, sell on a full-time basis at a single loca-

tion if market activity were spread out over the

whole week. Firm ranges probably already exceeded threshold for most basic goods by the
time some traders had decided to specialize in

commerce. Traders wishing to take up full-time

work found, however, that the custom of peri-

odic markets had already been firmly established in many areas. Producers, members of
the ruling class, priests, merchants, or landowners had already established the precedent
that markets should be periodic. They had con-

promote mutually convenient trading relationships.36 In many parts of the world local author- centrated market activity on one or two days of
the week. Few consumers visit the marketplace
ities played a crucial role in enforcing law and
on nonmarket days when markets are held
order in the marketplace and the surrounding
periodically, and traders cannot attract enough
customers to make trading worthwhile. AspirAs trade developed market locations were ining full-time traders had further problems if
creasingly based on centrality, accessibility,
several markets were established on the same
proximity to other services, siting on neutral
days of the week, because they could visit only
ground, and positioning between complemenone. Market day might be changed to facilitate
full-time mobile trading, but the changes may
34 Claude Meillassoux, "Social and Economic Fachave been motivated as much by religious prestors Affecting Markets in Guro Land," in Bohannan
sures as by commercial factors.39
and Dalton, op. cit., footnote 19, p. 297.
35 Gray and Birmingham, op. cit., footnote 19, pp.
12-14; and Godfrey Muriuki, "Kikuyu Reaction to
Traders and British Administration, 1850-1904," in
B. A. Ogot, ed., Hadith I (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1968), p. 104.
36 G. N. Uzoigwe, "Precolonial Markets in BunyoroKitara," Comparative Studies in Society and History,

38 For example, B. W. Hodder, "Rural Periodic Day

Markets in Part of Yorubaland," Transactions of the

Institute of British Geographers, No. 29 (1961), pp.

149-51; R. T. Jackson, "Periodic Markets in Southern
Ethiopia," Transactions of the Institute of British Ge-

ographers, No. 53 (1971), p. 40; and Frbhlich, op. cit.,

Vol. 14 (1972), pp. 447-48; and Hodder and Ukwu,

footnote 32, pp. 240-51. Frbhlich cited many attri-

op. cit., footnote 12, pp. 131-32.

37 For example, Rosemary Arnold, "Separation of
Trade and Market: The Great Market of Whydah," in
Polanyi, Arensberg, and Pearson, op. cit., footnote 21,

butes and patterns of markets from the early ethno-

pp. 177-87; Francisco Benet, "Explosive Markets: The

Berber Highlands," in Polanyi, Arensberg, and Pearson, op. cit., footnote 21, pp. 188-217; and Alonso de
Zorita, The Lords of New Spain (London: J. M. Dent,
1965), pp. 152-61.

graphic literature.

39 S. W. Mintz and D. Hall, The Origins of the

Jamaican Internal Marketing System, Yale University

Publications in Anthropology No. 57 (New Haven,

Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 1960), p. 19;

Bromley and Bromley, op. cit., footnote 31; and John
Fraser Hart, The Look of the Land (Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975), pp. 160-63.

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This hypothesized reconstruction of the early

development of markets does not conflict with
the exogenous theory of market origins. Outside traders may visit less advanced areas to
buy and sell, and they may trade and obtain
provisions in areas they pass through on trading

journeys. In both cases they stimulate local demand for exogenous commodities and encourage local entrepreneurs to collect and distribute the goods handled by the long-distance

traders.40 Thus outside influence accelerates

commerce and increases the local demand for
commercial institutions. If the first local markets resulted from the initial stimulus of external trade, these markets still needed to be
conveniently scheduled for local producers and
consumers, and to be standardized in time and
place. As local and alien traders grew in numbers and importance, and as the trade increased,
the predictability of regular market gatherings
would have become more and more indispensable.

The establishment of the first market day is

analogous to the establishment of the first administrative center in an area. Both have the
advantage of being first. They become established at the expense of other possible market
days and administrative centers. They stand a
high probability of growing in importance as
people hear of them and come to use them.
Growth usually leads to an increase in the variety of merchandise sold in a market, and to a
spreading of the market's reputation. These in
turn may attract still more traders and consumers from greater distances. The process of
growth is circular and cumulative, and only
the most fundamental social or economic




opportunities for entrepreneurs who are not

directly associated with it. The success of a market may lead to improvements in transport services and to changes in the division of labor
and in production and consumption, all of
which reinforce the market's initial success. In
short, the initial advantage of the first market
in an area, or of the first market to meet on a
new, more convenient market day, becomes

more firmly established through time, and is

not easily reversed. If the first markets are
periodic, their periodicity is likely to persist
long after other factors might suggest that they
should have been transformed into permanent

Perhaps the most fundamental drawback of

economic models in explaining periodic marketing is that they neglect most of the cognitive

and decision-making processes of the very

people whose behavior they attempt to explain.
Most societies are conservative, and there may
be strong resistance to changing an established
pattern. Predictability and reliability are at a
premium in a world of insecurity and often fear,
where risks may lead to disaster. Changes in

marketing behavior in most societies are often

delayed by the slow transmission of economic
information, and by the popular belief that
new developments will be short-lived and followed by a return to the status quo. Not only

traders and consumers resist changes in established markets, but also local authorities.4'
Authorities decide to establish new markets and
occasionally to change market days, and they
influence marketing behavior by their licensing
and taxation policies. Regulations are often imposed on fixed daily traders before they are
imposed on part-time and mobile traders, and
traders are induced to continue part-time and/
or mobile habits to avoid the most stringent
changes can reverse it. The backward and forregulations.42 Administrative policies perpetuward linkages of an expanding market produce
ate periodic marketing.43
As development occurs periodic markets
40 The two main functions of precolonial West Afrieventually
become continuous daily markets,
can periodic markets were "to move consumer goods
or they may decline and be replaced by, or
through exchange cycles between areas that were not
self-sufficient in their economy; and more particularly,
transformed into, stores and wholesale wareto serve as bulking and wholesale centers for profeshouses. Increasing demand for perishable goods
sional long-distance traders dealing in rarer and more
valuable commodities." In the West African interior,
"everywhere" the indigenous "preoccupation with
edible surplus formed the backbone for the passage of
more exotic items of trade;" Colin Newbury, "Trade

often leads to the establishment of minor mar41 Bromley and Bromley, op. cit., footnote 31.
42 Bromley, op. cit., footnote 13, p. 62; and J. H.

and Authority in West Africa from 1850 to 1880," in

L. Gann and P. Duignan, eds., Colonialism in Africa,

Kirk, P. G. Ellis, and J. R. Medland, Retail Stall

Markets in Great Britain, Marketing Series No. 8

1870-1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

1969), Vol. 1, pp. 67-68.

(Wye, Kent: Wye College, 1972), pp. 42-43.

43 For example, Hill, op. cit., footnote 3, p. 309.

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ket days between the main market days, but

not necessarily different from what would be

the volume of trade on the main market day

purchased if markets were continuous.

may continue growing until it has to be spread

over adjacent days.44 Urbanization increases

the proportion of the population able to visit

markets daily. Periodic markets will eventually

disappear under the demands of new systems
which are structurally distinct from the systems
in which they arose.
Initial advantage and the weight of tradition,

variables which are cultural and historical as

much as they are economic, give two economic

benefits to consumers by prolonging the life of

periodic markets. One is the presence of high
order goods that otherwise would not be available in a given market center, and the other is
the presence of high order goods at a greater
number of locations within a given area. The
total amount of high order goods purchased is
44 Richard Symanski, "God, Food and Consumers
in Periodic Market Systems," Proceedings, Association
of American Geographers, Vol. 5 (1973), pp. 262-66.


If our analysis is correct, then students of

marketing and central places must radically

revise their ideas on periodic markets. Early
traders and consumers were also producers, and

the periodic market allowed a rational division

of time between production, trade, and other

activities. It was efficient, logical, and convenient for early markets to be periodic, and these
periodic markets persisted, or only changed

with notable lag effects, because of social and

cultural resistance to change and the cumulative

advantages that accrued to the first markets.
Traditional economic analyses have not misread history, but have ignored it. As a result,
both the origin conditions of periodic markets,
and the role of positive feedback in the persistence of social and economic phenomena, have
also been ignored.

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