By clothing-bag, 18/01/2023

The Hanseatic League

The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive federation of cities in northern Germany and communities of German merchants in the Baltic Sea, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and Russia, as well as regions that are now in the Baltic Republics.

He operated for hundreds of years and at his peak was one of the most successful commercial alliances in history.The League had the loyalty of almost 200 cities throughout northern Europe.

The language that was used throughout the Hanseatic League was the German bass, which was a dialect of great impact on the coastal regions involved in commerce.Among the Hanseatic cities were port cities of coastal regions, as well as cities located along important rivers in the interior.

Through trade and business bourgeoisie, many of these cities achieved a high level of prosperity, some of which continue to show valuable cultural and architectural characteristics.

Extension of the Hanseatic League in 1400.(Wikipedia)

Commercial expeditions, razzias and piracy were already frequent in the Baltic Sea since Vikinga era.We must know that for example, the sailors of the island of Gotland had arrived by tracing Ríos to the Russian city of Nóvgorod, but the dimensions of the economic activity in the area were reduced until the rise of the league.

Numerous cities were founded in the second half of the 12th and early thirteenth century in northern Germany around the Baltic Sea: Lübeck, Rostock, Wismar, Stralsund, Greifswald, Stettin, Elbing.The bourgeoisie quickly settled in power in these cities.

The Teutonas cities managed to dominate trade in the Baltic Sea with surprising speed, and in the next century, Lübeck was the main city of all the maritime trade that linked the areas of the North and Baltic Sea.

Lübeck became a basis for the merchants of Saxony and Westfalia, from which they could go east and north.

The merchants residing in the cities began to found guildFrom the interior areas to the ports.

We must highlight the city of Visby that worked as the main shopping center in the Baltic Sea before Hansa.For a hundred years the Vikings or Varegos sailed under the flag of Gotland to Nóvgorod, arriving the Visby merchants to establish branches in the Russian city.

The German merchants began at their Gutagard facilities, but as their number grew, they installed with the help of Gotland their own offices in Petershof, beyond the river.


The origin of the Hansa

The Hanseática League has its roots in the central years of the twelfth century.At that historical moment, in various cities in northern Germany, the commercial bourgeoisie managed to take power.These sectors were able to control the trade in the Baltic area.

The political inability of the Germanic Empire, in a context of flowering trade and greater political and economic freedoms, favored cities to organize autonomously.

Lübeck being their place of reference, the guilds promoted trade with other areas of the Baltic that had lower social and economic development.Various cities began to create alliances, leagues, to defend their common interests and protect themselves from the attacks of other states and pirate incursions.

In the mid -thirteenth century, Lübeck, she allied with Hamburg.Subsequently, other cities, such as witches, Rostock or Wismar, joined this alliance.Together with the cities, colonies of German merchants adhered, which operated in other cities in Europe, such as London, which joined the Hansa de Colonia.This was possible after the permission given by Enrique III of England to the merchants of Hamburg and Lübeck to operate in their kingdom.

The guilds then worked to acquire privileges for their members.The merchants of Colonia convinced King Enrique II of England to grant them in 1157 special privileges and rights to trade in London, as well as toll exemptions.

Lübeck was the place where merchants embarked goods towards the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, winning the status of free imperial city in 1227, being the first east of the Elba River to enjoy such privilege.

Lübeck had access to both seas pastel.He formed an alliance with Hamburg in 1241, another mercantile city that controlled access to Luneburg Salt routes.

The new allies controlled salting fish traffic, especially in the scania market.Colonia Over time he joined the coalition becoming a member of Hansetag, the diet of the Hanseatic League in the year 1260.

The Lübeck-Hamburg Union managed to sign some commercial treaties with Flanders in 1252.The city of Bruges, which was the main city of Flanders, appeared in a prominent way in the development of the Hanseatic League.

Rostock and Wismar also concluded an alliance with Lübeck in 1259, in order to take common actions against bandits and pirates.Enrique III of England authorized the merchants of Lübeck and Hamburg to operate in England in 1266, joining the Hansa de Colonia, in 1282, to form the most powerful German merchant colony in London in London.

The development of commercial cooperation resulted in political and territorial fragmentation, which created commercial insecurity and instability.Subsequently, the Hanseatic League emerged as a set of cooperation and confederation agreements to collaborate on the maritime routes to the West and East.

The central direction fell to Lübeck, gathering there the first diet in 1356 and acquiring the league an official structure, in what is considered as its foundation date.

Hansa expansion

La Liga Hanseática

The privileged situation of Lubeck in the Baltic Sea provided access to the routes that went to Scandinavia and the Republic of Nóvgorod, making it a direct competitor of the Scandinavians for the main Baltic markets.

A treaty with the city of Visby ended the competition for the control of commercial routes and gave access to the merchants of Lübeck to the inner port of Nóvgorod, where they established a commercial position or Kontor (1).

Other alliances were forged along the sacred Germanic Roman Empire.The League was never a very united structure and the assemblies were held since 1356 in Lübeck irregularly, through Hansetag, which many cities preferred not to send representatives.Over time, the alliances network grew to include between 70 and 170 cities.

The League managed to establish more Kontors in Bruges, Bergen in Norway and London in England.These commercial positions were important enclaves.

In addition to these great Kontors, there were Hanseatic cities that had a representative and warehouses in cities like Boston in England, Bristol, Bishop's Lynn Unique that remains today.

Over time, the ancient Slavic cities expanded and founded new German cities in the east of the Baltic Sea, such as Gdánsk, TorúLübeck's law.Many of which still retain buildings of the time with the characteristic haseatic style.

Before founding the Hanseatic League in 1358, the term Hansa was unknown in the Baltic Sea, as Visby merchants used the term Varego.

The League had a fluid structure but its members shared certain characteristics.First of all, they were free cities that had obtained such a privilege for the growing power of the league.

Hansa Museum in Bergen (Norway).

In spite of everything, their freedoms were limited.German cities paid accounts to the emperor, without any noble intermediary, and in the rest of the countries they enjoyed similar legal figures.The second characteristic was its strategic location on commercial routes.

The merchants of the League managed to intervene successfully for their economic and military power, because the sea convoys were strongly escorted, they also influenced imperial politics in the first decade of the fourteenth century.

The League traded mainly with wood, skins, resin, honey, rye and wheat from the west to Flanders and England, and with clothing and manufactured products on the return.They also imported from Sweden minerals, such as copper and iron.

The power of the League was growing, between the years of 1389 and 1370, the ships of the HansDanish.The Stralsund Treaty was signed, in 1370, in addition to a monopoly in Scandinavia.Vigorous campaigns against piracy began.

The maritime trade had been threatened by the attacks of privateers, between 1392 and 1440, belonging to a brotherhood of privateers who were hired, in 1392, by Micklemburg Albrecht to attack Queen Margarita I of Denmark.

To ensure commercial routes and protect investments, maritime pilots were trained and headlights were erected.A collateral benefit for the League was its domain of naval construction, mainly from Lübeck and Gdansk.Hansa sold its ships throughout Europe, even arriving at the Mediterranean Sea.

Entrance door to Lübeck.

Exclusive trade routes were achieved at a high price.Many cities restricted Hanseatic merchants to certain areas of the city, not being able to negotiate with the local population.

Many nobles, merchants and rulers envied the power of the league.London's unions exerted pressure on the king to convince him to cancel the privileges of the Hanseatic League.

German's refusal to offer them counterparts in their markets exacerbated the situation.Eduardo IV of England confirmed the privileges of the League in the Treaty of Utrecht thanks to the financial support of the Germans in the War of the two roses to the Yorkist Party on which the King supported.


Visby is located on the Swedish island of Gotland.Visby's story begins with the construction of a city defensive wall, which built it to keep the peasants out.

The city's trade was developed by a few merchants who had all privileges.Farmers in the area did not count at all.The construction of the first wall in the city had a defensive function but its main function was to create customs.

The Visby wall, in Gotland, Sweden, marked the beginning of the Hanseatic League.(Image: Cardenal Cisneros)

Local farmers were forced to pay a rate or tax if they wanted to sell their products in the city.The wall caused a civil war.More than 700 years later, the wall is still standing.

Visby merchants were more interested in trading with their counterparts in other cities across the sea than with their own provincial neighbors.

There have been a lot of coins in Gotland, which came from the Arab world and central Asia, which testifies to the importance of the city in international trade.From the Viking era, trade was an important source of income for people who lived on the island of Gotland.

Visby traded with textiles from different parts of the world, spices, saffron, enameled ceramics with salt from Germany and Nóvgorod squirrel skins, which was the most important commercial product in this area.

As the medieval world opened, Visby began to trade with other parts of the Baltic region, and a wide network of merchants was born that later, the Hanseatic League would form.

Visby was one of his first power centers in Hansa.Local merchants, who traded in particular with their counterparts in northern Germany, formed guilds or Hansa to promote their interests and build their networks.It was an organization that protected the trade of some merchants.They never developed free trade, if commercial monopolies.

The walls of the city of Visby.

One of the great Baltic trade awards was the skin of the humble Russian squirrel.

Huge shipping skins were exported from the Russian Nóvgorod port to meet the insatiable demand for coats and other fashion garments.

It was so lucrative that others wanted a part of the business.Visby had negotiated with Nóvgorod and this caused a great prosperity.Subsequently, the Germans arrived in Visby, but they also settled in Nóvgorod and slowly became majority of the city's trade.

Other factors challenged the dominant position of Gotland Island was piracy.Navigation methods were improved, ships that could travel further and faster, and military attacks were avoided from Denmark.

Visby could not control what he had created, and although the city had its moment of glory, it was eventually ignored.Cooperation between ambitious merchants, pioneers in Gotland, had gradually become an organized network.A medieval commercial superpower had been created.


Lübeck, in northern Germany, is known as the city of the seven towers.High medieval churches dominate their horizon and help define their history.

Lübeck had its peak in the heart of the Hanseatic world, between 1356 and 1669.It was the seat of more than one hundred meetings of Hansetag, the assembly that brought together representatives of Hanseatic cities to draw strategies and promote their interests.

Lübeck is the main city of Hansa and was located in the heart of a network that extended not only through the sea, to the north, but also inland, providing all kinds of goods, such as Eastern Europe and Arenquefrom Scandinavia, to prosperous cities in the rest of Germany.

As trade was developed, cities that were separated by hundreds of kilometers needed to be sure that everyone was receiving fair treatment.Then, they created a system of common norms and regulations.

The creation of an agreed list of pesos and measures was particularly important, at that historical moment there was a lot of insecurity in commerce.It was necessary to have common standards to measure and value the price and thus avoid conflicts.Already at that time the imitation was a big problem, so there was a lot of regulation.

Lübeck, the Hanseatic city

The Hanseatic League was proactive about quality control.The highly appreciated fabrics of witches or leiden were registered trademarks, although there was no international law that prevented the copy of another product.

It was important for merchants that the merchandise that came to Nóvgorod was actually what he claimed to be, because he could create a serious economic conflict.In fact, many of the issues that dominate modern commercial discussions, counterfeit products, registered trademarks and rules of origin, echo the Hanseatic period.

Sometimes, disputes arose, and even natural business partners fought.The Hanseatic League endured for a notably long time because it helped to guarantee quality, organize logistics and create trust.

A series of great factors made the Hansa network gradually lose its influence.The emergence of national states as centers of political power challenged their commercial model, as well as the appearance of new markets and commercial routes worldwide.

The thirty -year war that devastated central Europe in the seventeenth century was perhaps the drop that filled the glass.However, the belief in the Hanseatic model of cooperation rarely faltered.

The legacy of the Hanseatic period lasts throughout the Baltic coast of Germany.Both Hamburg and Bremen are still officially known as free Hanseatic cities, and are states in their own right in the German Federal Republic.


London was never formally one of the Hanseatic cities, but it was a crucial link in the chain, known as Kontor or commercial position.The German merchants community who lived on the banks of the Thames was exempt from tariffs and certain taxes.

At some point, Hansa had 15% of the market share of English imports and exports.The London headquarters of the League was known as Steelyard, it was probably a reference to the metal stamps that were used to certify the origin of different types of fabrics brought here to be exported.

None of its buildings, warehouses, chapel, guild or residential neighborhoods are still standing today.The Steelyard came to dominate the fabric trade in England, and the richness of its German merchants was captured in the portraits of the 16th century of the painter Hans Holbein.

Success also generated resentment and disputes with local merchants, but it was an early example of paneuropea cooperation.People sometimes use the term free trade poorly and say that the Hanseatic League promoted it.It is absolutely false as we have already seen.All its strategy consisted of creating monopolies and negotiating privileges.

The end of the Hansa

Bremen and Gdansk joined the Lübeck-Hamburg association and were followed by several leagues, one of which grouped cities of Westfalia, the area of the Rin River and the Netherlands, and another was constituted by Prussian, Lithuanian and Estonias cities.The Federation, called Hansa, soon included around ninety cities.

The League declares the war to Denmark in response to the occupation and looting of Visby, on the island of Gotland, in 1362.Denmark was forced to pay compensation and transfer territories in 1370, which increased the power of the league.

In the following century, the League created new commercial and civilization centers in northern Europe, agriculture and industrial techniques were developed and channels and roads were built.

The League was democratically governed by a diet, formed by delegates from the member cities, but which failed to create a centralized government, which apparently contributed to the passage of time to its collapse.This management model is considered a precursor of what is now known as a consensus decision.

The disintegration, initiated at the end of the 15th century, accelerated by the consolidation of sovereign states in Europe, the discovery of America and the development of Dutch and English maritime power.

Lübeck City City Council.(Photo: Pixabay)

The confrontation between the League and England caused the capture of 61 Hanseatic ships for the English in 1589.The thirty -year war was another blow to the organization.

Only Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg continued to integrate the League in 1630.This union survived another three hundred years, during which the three cities retained a nominal political independence and the denomination of Hanseatic cities.

With the arrival to German power of Adolf Hitler, the privileged status of Lübeck was eliminated, in 1934, but Hamburg and Bremen continue to have the city range.

Hanseatic coca

Commercial routes make maritime traffic a lot which causes ships to have to go further and further.Therefore, it was inevitable that an adequate vessel to save safely in any atmospheric situation, which was robust and large enough to meet the load requirements to meet the load requirements.The new type of merchant ship is known by the name of Coca Hanseática.

The wooden coca ship was the distinctive of the Hansa with its simple square rig candle.They were created for the flourishing trade routes through the Baltic Sea and was one of the first precursor ships of the modern container ship.

This ship was not made for war, it was simply a transport ship, which was also quite slow.Its main function was that you could transport bulk products.

The preceding vessels were directed by one or two oars.The coca had a rudder of the stern of the stern.It is impossible to establish the precise date of this technical modification, since the most reliable testimony comes from the brands left over the years in the seals of the big cities.

Lisa von Lübeck Coca Replica, XV Hanseat Ship.

In the mid -fourteenth century the helm was commonly used, as it appears both in the stamps of the cities of the Hanseatic League and in coins and mural paintings.

Through the coins and stamps other details of the Hanseatic coca are known;In many cases it was characterized by the straight bow, instead of the typical curvature of the previous Nordic vessels, and by a line also straight for the codaste, to which the helm was fixed.

The rhard and the Codaste were solidly fixed to a pronounced keel, which stood out much longer than that of the boats with curved bow and stern, which gave the ship an optimal grip in the sea, even when it was very agitated.

The long and straight keel, had been studied in all likelihood to adapt to the weather conditions of the coasts of northern Europe, frequently quite bad.

Since anuric candle had hindered the maneuvers of the boat, which caused a slow response to the helm, a single block candle used to be used, which was oriented with fathoms to advance even with wind through.

It is impossible to determine the exact dimensions of the Hanseatic coca based on the stamps of the cities.Due.Such dimensions suggest that its displacement was of the order of the 280 tons.

For the development of the structure of the coca, the Nordic builders still used the Tingladillo system, where the lower edge of each table was on the upper edge of the table located below for the lining of the helmet, while where the sides joinedTo the keel, they opted for the method of construction of flat joints with the edges of the tables against each other and filling the junction with tarry bar that prevented the entry of water.

The tables were oak and, especially for the upper tapes, they were very thick with 50 cm.And sometimes more.

La vela única debía tener una superficie de unos 150 m2 y estaba hecha con pesada tela amarillenta.The color was conferred by the solution prepared with tree cortex, used to prevent its rot.

Hanseática coca dated approximately in 1380 and exhibited at the Bremerhaven Museum.(Wikipedia)

(1) A Kontor was a commercial position abroad of the Hanseatic League that served to shelter merchants housed in the main countries of northern Europe.