The history of the fair: a story of continuity and innovation

The trade fair has existed for centuries and, over the years, has been an important tool for the promotion of trade and industry. But let’s take a step back: what is the history of the fair? And how has it evolved over time?

Continue reading the article to find out more!

Before starting, it is necessary to mention the etymological origin of the term “fair”, which derives from the late Latin “fĕria” and recalls the idea of a day of celebration and leisure. Over the centuries, the meaning has evolved, assuming the meaning of “meeting of sellers and buyers”.

History of the fair: the origins

Although we start talking about fairs in the Middle Ages, it is interesting to note that the idea of a similar commercial event already existed in Roman times, albeit with a different purpose from the current one. The ancient Romans, in fact, gathered on holidays to attend shows and other events.

However, starting from the year 1000 (also known as the age of the commercial revolution), regional markets began to develop in the most important cities, including fairs. These events were held regularly and on pre-established days, becoming a much-awaited occasion for the merchants, who sent their goods especially for the occasion and took the opportunity to buy what they needed. Merchandise from all over Europe arrived at the medieval fairs, such as fabrics, wine, grain, wool and salt, making these fairs a place of great commercial exchange and meeting between people from different parts of the continent.

History of the fair: the turning point

With the discovery of America in 1492, interest in fairs expanded considerably, focusing above all on precious metals from the newly discovered lands. In the 1600s, Leipzig hosted the most famous fairs, attracting such a large flow of goods and people that the city was forced to expand its walls on several occasions. Towards 1800, however, international fairs gradually lost their importance, giving way to universal exhibitions.

But it is undoubtedly 1851 that represents a fundamental year in the history of fairs, with the holding of the first Expo in London. The event took place at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park and was formally called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations. It was an opportunity to exhibit new products, cutting-edge industrial machinery and the first samples, combining commercial needs with those of research and innovation. The London Expo represented an innovative and successful model, which would later be followed by many other universal exhibitions around the world.

The fair in the modern age

With the advent of the modern age, we have witnessed the birth of the trade fair model we know today thanks to its sectorisation. Thanks to this approach, exhibitions dedicated to specific sectors have been created, such as technology, science, agri-food and many others.

It was precisely in the 20th century that this trade fair model was further developed, thanks to the creation of the first companies specialized in the organization and management of trade fair events, as well as permanent structures specially designed to host these events.

The types of fair today

Today there are various types of exhibitions, three are the main ones. Let’s see them together!

Popular fair: a folklore event, where the stalls wind their way through the streets and squares of the historic centre, whose participation is driven by curiosity and affection for a tradition.
Trade fair: only samples of the goods are exhibited with the aim of taking any orders and it mainly affects operators in specific sectors.
Sectoral fair: a small or large fair, both in terms of exhibition area and number of exhibitors and visitors. A characteristic of this type of fair is the presence of both producers and traders among the exhibitors. The sectors that fall within these types of fairs are: cars and motorcycles, biological, photography, comics, nautical and electronics.

To conclude, the history of the fair is constantly evolving and, today, we can add a new element: just think of how covid has changed some dynamics. The interruption of activities caused a drop in turnover, but at the same time it favored change. In fact, many initiatives have not been canceled but transferred to digital platforms.

We at Manaly are ready to face the challenges of change, as we have always done, in order to best meet the needs of our customers.

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