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The Rationale of Periodic Markets Author(s): R. J. Bromley, Richard Symanski and Charles M. Good

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.


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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, Exoge-

nous 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 anthro- pologists 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. Syman-

ski is Assistant Professor of Geography at the Univer-

sity of Texas in A ustin, TX 78712; and Dr. Good is Associate Professor of Geography at the Virginia

Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacks-

burg, VA 24061.

* The authors wish to thank the University Research

Institute at the University of Texas at Austin for fi-

nancial 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., 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

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

393-401; and N. A. Alao, "Theoretical Issues in the

Geographical Dimensions of Market Periodicity," Ni-

gerian Geographical Journal, Vol. 15 (1972), pp. 97-


theory to explain periodic markets and the

functions of different settlements within re-

gional 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 eco- nomic 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 pe-

riodic 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 Articula-

tion and Economic Stratification in Western Guate- mala," Food Research Institute Studies, Vol. 11

(1972), pp. 203-33; Lawrence W. Crissman, "Market-

ing on the Changhua Plain, Taiwan," in W. E. Will-

mott, ed., Economic Organization in Chinese Society

(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), pp. 215-

59; 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 Eco- nomic Relations," in Viola E. Garfield, ed., American

Ethnological Society Proceedings, Annual Spring

Meeting for 1961 (Seattle: American Ethnological

Society, 1961), pp. 54-63; Polly Hill, "Notes on Tra-

ditional 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.


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


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We postulate that exchange systems and pat- terns vary with types of society, and are founded upon value systems shaped by cultural processes. Exchange patterns are among the

most important social relationships which bind

society together, and they impinge on all as-

pects of social life. Trade is a concrete form of exchange, and thus may serve as a major in- dex 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 his- torical 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 compara- tive advantage.

The Needs of Producers

Many of the earliest local traders were pro-

ducers 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 produc-


The Organization of Time

Periodic market gatherings are related to

sociocultural concepts of time, to the length of

the accepted week or month, and to the exis-

tence of days set aside for rest, religious cere-

4 Cyril S. Belshaw, Traditional Exchange and Mod-

ern Markets (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1965),

pp. 5-9 and 78-79.

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

ket," Soviet Studies, Vol. 7 (1956), p. 384; and Ching-

Kun Yang, A North China Local Market Economy: A

Summary of a Study of Periodic Markets in Chowping, Hsien, Shantung (New York: Institute of Pacific Rela- tions, 1944, mimeo), p. 10; and R. J. Bromley, "Peri- odic and Daily Markets in Highland Ecuador," unpub-

lished doctoral dissertation, Cambiidge University,

1975, pp. 298-323.

monies, or public gatherings and festivities.6 In the Americas the accepted week is seven days. In Africa the indigenous market week

ranges from two to eight days, and in China it may be ten or twelve days. Many economic and

social institutions already existed when regular 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, adminis-

tration, rest, and recreation.

Inertia and Comparative Advantage

Mackinder's dictum that "no human settle-

ment is more difficult to supplant than an established market" suggests that market loca-

tions and periodicities cannot be explained

simply by present-day patterns.7 One must con-

sider 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 con-

sumers, so established market locations and periodicities had a strong tendency to persist.

Some unpopular market sites and timings were eventually supplanted, but circular and cumu-

lative 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.

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

and Morality (New York: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 101-

23; 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 Metro-

politan Market," Geographical Journal, Vol. 124

(1958), p. 464.

8 Charles M. Good, Rural Markets and Trade in

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

pp. 170-225.

9 Positive feedback is discussed in Gunnar Myrdal,

Economic Theory and Underdeveloped Regions (Lon-

don: Gerald Duckworth, 1957), pp. 11-22; M. Maru-

yama, "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, 1800- 1914: Interpretive and Theoretical Essays (Cambridge,

Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1966), pp. 15-32.

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532 R. J. BROMLEY ET AL. December



Most areas of the world with periodic mar- kets 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 per-

sist on a periodic basis. Persistent periodicity poses serious difficul-

ties for models which attempt to explain peri- odic 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 when- ever the minimum number of customers re-

quired 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 re-

finements, 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 cen-

ters. 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 moderniz-

ing urban areas.12 The logical end of this transi-

10 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 Ru-

ral Central Place Development," National Geograph- ical 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 Al-

though 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 gather- ings on one day and relatively little trading ac-

tivity the rest of the week.15 Most of the prin-

cipal 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 de- mand is concentrated in weekly markets, how- ever, most traders can make more profit by selling in a number of different markets. Popu-

lation growth, urbanization, transport improve- ment, 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 con-

temporary 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 Insti- tute of British Geographers, No. 62 (1974), pp. 45- 70; Yue-man Yeung, "Periodic Markets: Comments on Spatio-Temporal Relationships," Professional Ge- ographer, Vol. 26 (1974), pp. 147-51; and Kathryn L.

Buzzacott, "London's Markets: Their Growth, Charac- teristics and Functions," unpublished doctoral disserta-

tion, 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, Syra-

cuse 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

daily markets in the forest zone of West Africa

were originally periodic markets, and many

market authorities continue to look upon them as "glorified periodic markets."1 Such an at-

titude may help account for the fact that many

daily markets have inadequate facilities, insuf-

ficient locked storage space, anachronistic tax-

ation, and no integration of market and park-

ing areas.18


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 market- place and the "market principle;" and ele-

ments such as ecological and cultural comple-

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 "en-

dogenous 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" re-

verses the order of events, and argues that trade

17 Hill, op. cit., footnote 3, p. 309.

18 Ann Norton and Richard Symanski, "The Inter-

nal Marketing Systems of Jamaica," Geographical Re-

view, Vol. 65 (1975), forthcoming.

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

Colonial Trade: Essays on Trade in Central and East- ern Africa before 1900 (London: Oxford University

Press, 1970), pp. 3-23; V. C. Uchendu, "Polity Pri-

macy and African Economic Development," Proceed-

ings of the University of East Africa Social Sciences

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.


and markets cannot originate from local de-

mands, but must be based on external relations.

Local markets are seen to originate from the stimulus of outside traders and the availability 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

obligatory participation in traditional prestation

and personalized gift exchange.23 This theory is

supported by the lack of markets in areas where economic relations are dominantly person-to- person, 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 "sur-

plus" production; their growth signified an in- creasingly specialized division of labor and a growing exploitation of regional complemen-

tarity.25 Market structures came to coexist

alongside prestation systems and are often in- terlinked 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

are engaged in producing for the market or

selling in the market, and those who are so

21 Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities (Princeton: Prince-

ton University Press, 1925), pp. 75-91; Max Weber, General Economic History (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1927), pp. 202-22; and Karl Polanyi, C.

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., foot-

note 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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534 R. J. BROMLEY ET AL. December

engaged are only part-time marketers. Their

livelihood comes largely from nonmarket

spheres of economy.

Division of labor was an essentially social phenomenon with economic exchange impli-

cations; marketless societies, such as the Kwak-

iutl 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 differenti- ated social roles, and hence specialized division

of labor."28

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 eco- nomic activities outside the marketplace.


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.

exchange, and ceremonial activities. In the post-Columbian Americas, as in medieval Europe, the church, the plantation, and the

feudal estate often determined market days. In

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 days of the week. As the number of market centers increased, however, a growing number of priests objected to the distraction from re- ligious devotions, and neighboring centers in- creasingly came into competition with one an- other 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 deci-

sions, 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 tradi- tional 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 seven-

day week has no consistent association with

31 Rosemary D. F. Bromley and R. J. Bromley,

"The Debate on Sunday Markets in Nineteenth Cen- tury 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 Anthro-

pological Institute, Vol. 54 (1924), pp. 183-209; and

Willy Frbhlich, "Das afrikanische Marktwesen," Zeit-

schrift 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 Lo- cational Spacing," in Meillassoux, op. cit., footnote 3,

p. 323.

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areas which were influenced by Muslim mer-

chants. These indigenous market weeks are tenacious, they provide continuity with the past, and they show little sign of yielding to the con- temporary Western week, which is otherwise

dominant in Africa. In contrast, seven-day mar-

ket schedules or multiples thereof predominate in East Africa, where most marketplaces are

colonial innovations.

Initial exchanges between individuals prob-

ably occurred in a home, at a ceremonial cen- ter, or at a chance meeting place. Since market trade was "primarily induced by external ex- changes of complementary products with an alien population," security of trade was an es-

sential precondition.34 In precolonial East Af-

rica, for example, Arab traders relied on fire- power for safety in the interior. They also col- laborated with African traders to gain peaceful access to African communities, where they could offer specialized skills and stimulate de- mand 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 rela- tionships were developed between traders and local people to provide safe passage and to

promote mutually convenient trading relation- ships.36 In many parts of the world local author-

ities played a crucial role in enforcing law and

order in the marketplace and the surrounding


As trade developed market locations were in- creasingly based on centrality, accessibility,

proximity to other services, siting on neutral

ground, and positioning between complemen-

34 Claude Meillassoux, "Social and Economic Fac-

tors Affecting Markets in Guro Land," in Bohannan

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 Pub-

lishing House, 1968), p. 104.

36 G. N. Uzoigwe, "Precolonial Markets in Bunyoro-

Kitara," Comparative Studies in Society and History,

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

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,

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

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

1965), pp. 152-61.


tary production zones.38 The relative impor- tance 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 settlement. Our understanding of the persistence of peri- odic markets can be advanced by a hypotheti- cal reconstruction of the early development of markets. In the early stages of market develop- ment local traders probably gave little thought

to selling on a full-time basis or to cyclical movements between market centers. It is im-

probable 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 ex- ceeded 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 estab-

lished in many areas. Producers, members of

the ruling class, priests, merchants, or land-

owners had already established the precedent

that markets should be periodic. They had con-

centrated market activity on one or two days of

the week. Few consumers visit the marketplace

on nonmarket days when markets are held

periodically, and traders cannot attract enough

customers to make trading worthwhile. Aspir-

ing full-time traders had further problems if

several markets were established on the same

days of the week, because they could visit only one. Market day might be changed to facilitate full-time mobile trading, but the changes may have been motivated as much by religious pres- sures as by commercial factors.39

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.,

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

butes and patterns of markets from the early ethno-

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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536 R. J. BROMLEY ET AL. December

This hypothesized reconstruction of the early

development of markets does not conflict with

the exogenous theory of market origins. Out- side 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 de-

mand for exogenous commodities and en-

courage local entrepreneurs to collect and dis-

tribute 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 mar-

kets resulted from the initial stimulus of ex-

ternal 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 num-

bers and importance, and as the trade increased,

the predictability of regular market gatherings

would have become more and more indispens-

opportunities for entrepreneurs who are not directly associated with it. The success of a mar- ket may lead to improvements in transport ser- vices 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 market- ing 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 fol-

lowed by a return to the status quo. Not only

traders and consumers resist changes in estab-

lished 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 im-

posed on fixed daily traders before they are

imposed on part-time and mobile traders, and



The establishment of the first market day is

analogous to the establishment of the first ad- ministrative center in an area. Both have the advantage of being first. They become estab- lished 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 va- riety of merchandise sold in a market, and to a spreading of the market's reputation. These in turn may attract still more traders and con-

sumers from greater distances. The process of

growth is circular and cumulative, and only the most fundamental social or economic

changes can reverse it. The backward and for-

ward linkages of an expanding market produce

traders are induced to continue part-time and/

or mobile habits to avoid the most stringent

regulations.42 Administrative policies perpetu-

ate periodic marketing.43

As development occurs periodic markets eventually become continuous daily markets, or they may decline and be replaced by, or transformed into, stores and wholesale ware-

houses. Increasing demand for perishable goods

often leads to the establishment of minor mar-

40 The two main functions of precolonial West Afri-

can periodic markets were "to move consumer goods

through exchange cycles between areas that were not

self-sufficient in their economy; and more particularly, to serve as bulking and wholesale centers for profes-

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

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

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

1870-1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

41 Bromley and Bromley, op. cit., footnote 31.

42 Bromley, op. cit., footnote 13, p. 62; and J. H.

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

Markets in Great Britain, Marketing Series No. 8

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

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

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

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ket days between the main market days, but

the volume of trade on the main market day

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 avail- able 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.


not necessarily different from what would be purchased if markets were continuous.


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 conve-

nient 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 mis- read history, but have ignored it. As a result,

both the origin conditions of periodic markets,

and the role of positive feedback in the persis-

tence of social and economic phenomena, have

also been ignored.

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