A charter granting the privilege of holding trade fairs was issued to the City of Hamburg by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV on 29 January 1365. It permitted the city to hold a trade fair from two weeks before Whitsun until eight days after Whitsun. The Emperor’s motivation for this was that he planned to establish new trading routes in his realm – starting from the central point of Prague, the seat of his rule, and spreading out in four principal directions on all points of the compass. Hamburg was to be the end of this route in the North. Trading goods from the whole of the Empire were brought together in Prague and shipped from there down the Elbe to Hamburg, and then distributed onwards to the West, North and East. Imports from Bruges and England, fish from the North, and exports from the Peterhof trading outpost in Novgorod were to be collected in Hamburg, shipped up the Elbe to Prague, and from there carried onwards to the East and South. The Hamburg Trade Fair was thus to be one of the central trading points in Europe. At the same time, the trade fair privilege granted special protection to the traders. The privilege meant that goods carried between Hamburg and Prague did not have to be offered for sale along the route. In 1383, five years after the death of Charles IV, the Council of the City of Hamburg discontinued the Whitsun Fair because it felt that trade could be conducted in the other markets of the city. It is no longer possible to establish exactly where the first trade fair was held in Hamburg. The most likely location was in front of the old City Hall, at Alsterhafen next to Trostbrücke.
* On loan from the Hamburg State Archives: STAHH 710-1 I Threse I C 6 a 2 “Emperor Charles IV grants charter for holding a three-week trade fair at Whitsun, 29/01/1365”