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Marketing secondhand goods in late medieval England

James Davis (School of History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 10 August 2010




The purpose of this paper is to identify the main practitioners, goods, customers and locations of secondhand marketing activities in late medieval England. It questions how important was the economic role played by such markets and what was the interaction with more formal market structures?


A broad range of evidence was examined, covering the period from 1200 to 1500: regulations, court rolls, wills, manorial accounts, literature, and even archaeology. Such material often provided mere scraps of information about marginal marketing activity and it was important to recognise the severe limitations of the evidence. Nevertheless, a wide survey of the available sources can give us an insight into medieval attitudes towards such trade, as well as reminding us that much marketing activity occurred beyond the reach of the surviving documentation.


Late medieval England had numerous outlets for secondhand items, from sellers of used clothes and furs who wandered the marketplaces to craftsmen who recycled and mended old materials. Secondhand marketing was an important part of the medieval makeshift economy, serving not only the needs of the lower sectors of society but also those aspiring to a higher status. However, it is unlikely that such trade generated much profit and the traders were often viewed as marginal, suspicious and even fraudulent.


There is a distinct lack of research into the extent of and significance of medieval secondhand marketing, which existed in the shadowy margins of formal markets and is thus poorly represented in the primary sources. A broad‐based approach to the evidence can highlight a variety of important issues, which impact upon the understanding of the medieval English economy.



Davis, J. (2010), "Marketing secondhand goods in late medieval England", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 270-286.



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