Markets are key contemporary institutions, yet there is little agreement concerning their history or diversity. To complicate matters, markets have been considered by different academic disciplines that approach the nature of such exchange systems from diametrically opposed perspectives that impede cross-disciplinary dialogue. This paper reviews the theoretical and methodological issues surrounding the detection, development, and significance of markets in the preindustrial past. We challenge both the view that marketing is natural and the perspective that market exchange is unique to modern capitalist contexts. Both of these frameworks fail to recognize that past and present market activities are embedded in their larger societal contexts, albeit in different ways that can be understood only if examined through a broadly shared theoretical lens. We examine the origins, change, and diversity of preindustrial markets, calling for multiscalar, cross-disciplinary approaches to investigate the long-term history of this economic institution.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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