The Counts of Champagne ruled that northeast region of France from 950 to 1316. In the 12th–13th centuries an annual cycle of trade fairs was held in different towns in the region. The counts provided facilities and travel protection for the Champagne fairs as well as special commercial courts to resolve disputes. Located roughly halfway between Europe’s most economically developed areas – northern Italy and the Low Countries – the Champagne fairs significance echoed through time.
Credit instruments were devised that survived long after the fairs had ceased. Champagne fair business was conducted entirely on credit. At the end of one fair an unsettled balance was carried over to the next; a kind of bill of exchange. Although bills of exchange emerged from commodity trade they evolved into purely financial instruments, only indirectly connected to commodities.
The precedents of the Champagne commercial courts carried on as an influence in law and adjudication in several European countries.