A form of free trade, organized in specific
locations at strictly defined times and featuring long-distance and
wholesale traders. Fairs facilitated the exchange of goods between
regions, as well as being very significant in local trade.
In Poland, fairs flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, as the production of goods increased. At fairs, products such
as grain, cattle, furs and wax would be amassed and later shipped
wholesale to the West. The most popular fairs were those in Belz, Lwow,
Luck, Ratno, Grodno and Wilno, where Lithuanian and Ukrainian products
were sold. The fairs in Przemysl, Jaroslaw, Przeworsk and Kazimierz,
near Krakow, were located on the route along which oxen were driven. The
fairs in Krakow, Sandomierz, Kazimierz Dolny, Plock and Torun were
along the Vistula river route. The Lublin fair was particularly
important, because it was there that the most important wholesalers from
all over the Commonwealth would meet.
The Lublin fair gatherings gave rise to the
meetings of the Jewish Sejm (Diet) and related institutions. Sessions of
the Jewish Sejm also took place during the fairs themselves, primarily
those in Lublin and Jaroslaw. The Sejm of the Lithuanian Jews met during
the Leczna fair.
Fairs played a key role in the development of Jewish trade. Fairs
were not affected by restrictions on trade or the law known as de non
tolerandis Judaeis, introduced by cities beginning in the late fifteenth
century. Jewish traders also took part in foreign fairs, in Wroc�aw and
in Leipzig, which by the second half of the fifteenth century had
become centers of land-based trade between Western and Eastern Europe.
In the eighteenth century, the fair network changed as the importance of
cities along the eastern and central borders of the Commonwealth
increased. These included Leczna, Brzesc, Grodno and Zelwa.
In the nineteenth century, the partitioning powers liquidated
smaller and less significant fairs; meanwhile, specialized fairs
developed, such as those for wool, in Warsaw, Poznan and Lwow; for hops
in Warsaw and Nowy Tomysl; for tobacco in Skwierzyna; for horses in
Skaryszew; and for textile products in Zelwa.