Hanseatic League

Alexander Cowan

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
Hanseatic League

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The Hanseatic League (or Hansa), the collective association of ports along the southern Baltic and North Sea coasts that developed in the middle of the 12th century, was one of the key economic and political organizations of medieval and Renaissance Europe. Its official existence is generally held to have dated from 1356, when the first meeting of the Hansetag took place in Lübeck, but its roots are much older and lie in the attempts by merchants from groups of German cities to negotiate trading privileges elsewhere. The Hansa remained an important collective force until the 16th century and retained its institutions and common cultural forms for much longer. The main outlines of its organization and history were first established following the foundation of the German Empire in 1870, and little in more recent historiography has altered the general view that the seeds of its decline were to be found in the changing conditions of the 15th and early 16th centuries. During the Cold War, two competing historiographical models of Hanseatic history developed in the two Germanies, and some valuable work was carried out in the East. More recent studies have focused on four main themes: the organization of the Hansa, relations with different European regions, the Hansa in the early modern period, and Hanseatic culture. Research into individual member-cities of the Hansa has also blossomed. An understanding of the League is enriched in particular by studies of Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck, and Danzig/Gdansk. The broad range of languages in which these studies have been published reflects the international interest in the Hanseatic League. Only a minority are accessible to Anglophone readers. The Hanseatic League is also featured in most histories of medieval and Renaissance Europe and more specialist studies of the Baltic and Scandinavia.

Article.  4822 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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