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|Lingua franca||Middle Low German|
|Membership||Various cities across the Baltic region|
|Today part of|
The Hanseatic League (//; Middle Low German: Hanse, Düdesche Hanse, Hansa; Modern German: Deutsche Hanse; Dutch: De Hanze; Latin: Hansa Teutonica) was a medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Central and Northern Europe. Growing from a few North German towns in the late 12th century, the League ultimately encompassed nearly 200 settlements across seven modern-day countries; at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries, it stretched from the Netherlands in the west to Russia in the east, and from Estonia in the north to Kraków, Poland in the south.
The League originated from various loose associations of German traders and towns formed to advance mutual commercial interests, such as protection against piracy and banditry. These arrangements gradually coalesced into the Hanseatic League, whose traders enjoyed duty-free treatment, protection, and diplomatic privileges in affiliated communities and their trade routes. Hanseatic Cities gradually developed a common legal system governing their merchants and goods, even operating their own armies for mutual defense and aid. Reduced barriers to trade resulted in mutual prosperity, which fostered economic interdependence, kinship ties between merchant families, and deeper political integration; these factors solidified the League into a cohesive political organization by the end of the 13th century.
During the peak of its power, the Hanseatic League had a virtual monopoly over maritime trade in the North and Baltic seas. Its commercial reach extended as far as the Kingdom of Portugal to the west, the Kingdom of England to the north, the Republic of Novgorod to the east, and the Republic of Venice to the south, with trading posts, factories, and mercantile "branches" established in numerous towns and cities across Europe. Hanseatic merchants were widely renowned for their access to a variety of commodities and manufactured goods, subsequently gaining privileges and protections abroad, including extraterritorial districts in foreign realms that operated almost exclusively under Hanseatic law. This collective economic influence made the League a powerful force, capable of imposing blockades and even waging war against kingdoms and principalities.
Even at its zenith, the Hanseatic League was never more than a loosely aligned confederation of city-states. It lacked a permanent administrative body, treasury, and standing military force; only a very small number of members enjoyed autonomy and liberties comparable to those of neighbouring free imperial cities. By the mid-16th century, these tenuous connections left the Hanseatic League vulnerable to rising competitors such as England, the Netherlands, and Russia. External pressures steadily eroded the confederation's unity, while rising local parochialism and political disputes from within frustrated the League's foundational principles of common purpose and mutuality. The League gradually unraveled as members departed or became consolidated into other realms, ultimately disintegrating in 1669.
Despite its inherent structural weaknesses, the Hanseatic League managed to endure and thrive for centuries under a quasi-legislative diet that operated on deliberation and consensus. Members united on the basis of mutual interest and comity, working together to pool resources, raise levies, and amicably resolve disputes to further common goals. The League's long-lived success and unity during a period of political upheaval and fragmentation has led to it being described as the most successful trade alliance in history, while its unique governance structure has been identified as a precursor to the supranational model of the European Union.
Although some historians identify Hanse as originally meaning An-See, or "on the sea", it is the Old High German word for a band or troop. This word was applied to bands of merchants traveling between the Hanseatic cities — whether by land or by sea. Hanse in Middle Low German came to mean a society of merchants or a trader guild.
Exploratory trading adventures, raids, and piracy occurred early throughout the Baltic Sea; the sailors of Gotland sailed up rivers as far away as Novgorod. Scandinavians led international trade in the Baltic area before the Hanseatic League, establishing major trading hubs at Birka, Haithabu, and Schleswig by the 9th century CE. The later Hanseatic ports between Mecklenburg and Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad) originally formed part of the Scandinavian-led Baltic trade-system.
Historians generally trace the origins of the Hanseatic League to the rebuilding of the north German town of Lübeck in 1159 by the powerful Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, after he had captured the area from Adolf II, Count of Schauenburg and Holstein. More recent scholarship has deemphasized the focus on Lübeck due to it having been designed[by whom?] as one of several regional trading centers.
German cities achieved domination of trade in the Baltic with striking speed during the 13th century, and Lübeck became a central node in the seaborne trade that linked the areas around the North and Baltic seas. The hegemony of Lübeck peaked during the 15th century.
Foundation and early development
Lübeck became a base for merchants from Saxony and Westphalia trading eastward and northward. Well before the term Hanse appeared in a document in 1267, merchants in different cities began to form guilds, or Hansa, with the intention of trading with towns overseas, especially in the economically less-developed eastern Baltic. This area could supply timber, wax, amber, resins, and furs, along with rye and wheat brought down on barges from the hinterland to port markets. The towns raised their own armies, with each guild required to provide levies when needed. The Hanseatic cities came to the aid of one another, and commercial ships often had to be used to carry soldiers and their arms.
Visby (on the island of Gotland) functioned as the leading centre in the Baltic before the Hansa. Sailing east, Visby merchants established a trading post at Novgorod called Gutagard (also known as Gotenhof) in 1080. Merchants from northern Germany also stayed there in the early period of the Gotlander settlement. Later, in the first half of the 13th century, they established their own trading station in Novgorod, known as Peterhof, further up the river Volkhov. In 1229 the ruler of Novgorod, the Rus' prince Michael of Chernigov, granted German merchants at Novgorod certain privileges that made their position more secure.
Hansa societies worked to remove restrictions on trade for their members. The earliest extant documentary mention (although without a name) of a specific German commercial federation dates from 1157 in London. That year, the merchants of the Hansa in Cologne convinced King Henry II of England to exempt them from all tolls in London and to allow them to trade at fairs throughout England. The "Queen of the Hansa", Lübeck, where traders were required to trans-ship goods between the North Sea and the Baltic, gained imperial privileges to become a free imperial city in 1226, as had Hamburg in 1189.
In 1241 Lübeck, which had access to the Baltic and North seas' fishing grounds, formed an alliance—a precursor to the League—with Hamburg, another trading city, which controlled access to salt-trade routes from Lüneburg. The allied cities gained control over most of the salt-fish trade, especially the Scania Market; Cologne joined them in the Diet of 1260.
In 1266 King Henry III of England granted the Lübeck and Hamburg Hansa a charter for operations in England, and the Cologne Hansa joined them in 1282 to form the most powerful Hanseatic colony in London. Much of the drive for this co-operation came from the fragmented nature of existing territorial governments, which failed to provide security for trade. Over the next 50 years, the Hansa solidified with formal agreements for confederation and co-operation covering the west and east trade routes. The principal city and linchpin remained Lübeck; with the first general diet of the Hansa held there in 1356, the Hanseatic League acquired an official structure.
Lübeck's location on the Baltic provided access for trade with Scandinavia and Kievan Rus' (with its sea-trade center, Veliky Novgorod), putting it in direct competition with the Scandinavians who had previously controlled most of the Baltic trade-routes. A treaty with the Visby Hansa put an end to this competition: through this treaty the Lübeck merchants gained access to the inland Russian port of Novgorod, where they built a trading post or Kontor (literally: "office"). Although such alliances formed throughout the Holy Roman Empire, the league never became a closely managed formal organisation. Assemblies of the Hanseatic towns met irregularly in Lübeck for a Hansetag (Hanseatic Diet) from 1356 onwards, but many towns chose not to attend nor to send representatives, and decisions were not binding on individual cities. Over the period, a network of alliances grew to include a flexible roster of 70 to 170 cities.
The league succeeded in establishing additional Kontors in Bruges (Flanders), Bergen (Norway), and London (England). These trading posts became significant enclaves. The London Kontor, first alluded to by crusaders from Lübeck for whom the Kontor arranged the purchase of a replacement cog-ship in Summer 1189, formally established in 1320, stood west of London Bridge near Upper Thames Street, on the site now occupied by Cannon Street station. It grew into a significant walled community with its own warehouses, weighhouse, church, offices and houses, reflecting the importance and scale of trading activity on the premises. The first reference to it as the Steelyard (der Stahlhof) occurs in 1422.
|17.2||Wendish & Pomeranian
|3||Small Baltic ports||1.2||4.2||0.8|
Starting with trade in coarse woollen fabrics, the Hanseatic League had the effect of bringing both commerce and industry to northern Germany. As trade increased, newer and finer woollen and linen fabrics, and even silks, were manufactured in northern Germany. The same refinement of products out of cottage industry occurred in other fields, e.g. etching, wood carving, armour production, engraving of metals, and wood-turning. The century-long monopolization of sea navigation and trade by the Hanseatic League ensured that the Renaissance arrived in northern Germany long before it did in the rest of Europe. A legacy of the period is a regional style of architecture known the Weser Renaissance, typified by the embellished facade added to the Bremen Rathaus in 1612.
In addition to the major Kontors, individual Hanseatic ports had a representative merchant and warehouse. In England this happened in Boston, Bristol, Bishop's Lynn (now King's Lynn, which features the sole remaining Hanseatic warehouse in England), Hull, Ipswich, Norwich, Yarmouth (now Great Yarmouth), and York.
The league primarily traded timber, furs, resin (or tar), flax, honey, wheat, and rye from the east to Flanders and England with cloth (and, increasingly, manufactured goods) going in the other direction. Metal ore (principally copper and iron) and herring came southwards from Sweden.
German colonists in the 12th and 13th centuries settled in numerous cities on and near the east Baltic coast, such as Elbing (Elbląg), Thorn (Toruń), Reval (Tallinn), Riga, and Dorpat (Tartu), which became members of the Hanseatic League, and some of which still retain many Hansa buildings and bear the style of their Hanseatic days. Most were granted Lübeck law (Lübisches Recht), after the league's most prominent town. The law provided that they had to appeal in all legal matters to Lübeck's city council. The Livonian Confederation of 1435 to c. 1582 incorporated modern-day Estonia and parts of Latvia and had its own Hanseatic parliament (diet); all of its major towns became members of the Hanseatic League. The dominant language of trade was Middle Low German, a dialect with significant impact for countries involved in the trade, particularly the larger Scandinavian languages, Estonian, and Latvian.
The league had a fluid structure, but its members shared some characteristics; most of the Hansa cities either started as independent cities or gained independence through the collective bargaining power of the league, though such independence remained limited. The Hanseatic free cities owed allegiance directly to the Holy Roman Emperor, without any intermediate family tie of obligation to the local nobility.
Another similarity involved the cities' strategic locations along trade routes. At the height of their power in the late-14th century, the merchants of the Hanseatic League succeeded in using their economic power and, sometimes, their military might—trade routes required protection and the league's ships sailed well-armed—to influence imperial policy.
The league also wielded power abroad. Between 1361 and 1370 it waged war against Denmark. Initially unsuccessful, Hanseatic towns in 1368 allied in the Confederation of Cologne, sacked Copenhagen and Helsingborg, and forced Valdemar IV, King of Denmark, and his son-in-law Haakon VI, King of Norway, to grant the league 15% of the profits from Danish trade in the subsequent peace treaty of Stralsund in 1370, thus gaining an effective trade and economic monopoly in Scandinavia. This favourable treaty marked the height of Hanseatic power. After the Danish-Hanseatic War and the Bombardment of Copenhagen, the Treaty of Vordingborg renewed the commercial privileges in 1435.
The Hansa also waged a vigorous campaign against pirates. Between 1392 and 1440 maritime trade of the league faced danger from raids of the Victual Brothers and their descendants, privateers hired in 1392 by Albert of Mecklenburg, King of Sweden, against Margaret I, Queen of Denmark. In the Dutch–Hanseatic War (1438–1441), the merchants of Amsterdam sought and eventually won free access to the Baltic and broke the Hanseatic monopoly. As an essential part of protecting their investment in ships and their cargoes, the League trained pilots and erected lighthouses.
Most foreign cities confined the Hanseatic traders to certain trading areas and to their own trading posts. They seldom interacted with the local inhabitants, except when doing business. Many locals, merchant and noble alike, envied the power of the League and tried to diminish it. For example, in London, the local merchants exerted continuing pressure for the revocation of privileges. The refusal of the Hansa to offer reciprocal arrangements to their English counterparts exacerbated the tension.
King Edward IV of England reconfirmed the league's privileges in the Treaty of Utrecht despite the latent hostility, in part thanks to the significant financial contribution the League made to the Yorkist side during the Wars of the Roses of 1455–1487. In 1597 Queen Elizabeth of England expelled the League from London, and the Steelyard closed the following year. Tsar Ivan III of Russia closed the Hanseatic Kontor at Novgorod in 1494. The very existence of the League and its privileges and monopolies created economic and social tensions that often crept over into rivalries between League members.
Rise of rival powers
The economic crises of the late 15th century did not spare the Hansa. Nevertheless, its eventual rivals emerged in the form of the territorial states, whether new or revived, and not just in the west: Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow, ended the entrepreneurial independence of Hansa's Novgorod Kontor in 1478—it closed completely and finally in 1494. New vehicles of credit were imported from Italy, where double-entry book-keeping was popularly formalized in 1494, and outpaced the Hansa economy, in which silver coins changed hands rather than bills of exchange.
In the 15th century, tensions between the Prussian region and the "Wendish" cities (Lübeck and its eastern neighbours) increased. Lübeck was dependent on its role as centre of the Hansa, being on the shore of the sea without a major river. It was on the entrance of the land route to Hamburg, but this land route could be bypassed by sea travel around Denmark and through the Kattegat. Prussia's main interest, on the other hand, was the export of bulk products like grain and timber, which were very important for England, the Low Countries, and, later on, also for Spain and Italy.
In 1454, the year of the marriage of Elisabeth of Austria to King-Grand Duke Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland-Lithuania, the towns of the Prussian Confederation rose up against the dominance of the Teutonic Order and asked Casimir IV for help. Gdańsk (Danzig), Thorn and Elbing became part of the Kingdom of Poland, (from 1466 to 1569 referred to as Royal Prussia, region of Poland) by the Second Peace of Thorn.
Poland in turn was heavily supported by the Holy Roman Empire through family connections and by military assistance under the Habsburgs. Kraków, then the capital of Poland, had a loose association with the Hansa. The lack of customs borders on the River Vistula after 1466 helped to gradually increase Polish grain exports, transported to the sea down the Vistula, from 10,000 short tons (9,100 t) per year, in the late 15th century, to over 200,000 short tons (180,000 t) in the 17th century. The Hansa-dominated maritime grain trade made Poland one of the main areas of its activity, helping Danzig to become the Hansa's largest city.
The member cities took responsibility for their own protection. In 1567, a Hanseatic League agreement reconfirmed previous obligations and rights of league members, such as common protection and defense against enemies. The Prussian Quartier cities of Thorn, Elbing, Königsberg and Riga and Dorpat also signed. When pressed by the King of Poland–Lithuania, Danzig remained neutral and would not allow ships running for Poland into its territory. They had to anchor somewhere else, such as at Pautzke (Puck).
A major economic advantage for the Hansa was its control of the shipbuilding market, mainly in Lübeck and in Danzig. The Hansa sold ships everywhere in Europe, including Italy. They drove out the Dutch, because Holland wanted to favour Bruges as a huge staple market at the end of a trade route. When the Dutch started to become competitors of the Hansa in shipbuilding, the Hansa tried to stop the flow of shipbuilding technology from Hanseatic towns to Holland. Danzig, a trading partner of Amsterdam, attempted to forestall the decision. Dutch ships sailed to Danzig to take grain from the city directly, to the dismay of Lübeck. Hollanders also circumvented the Hanseatic towns by trading directly with north German princes in non-Hanseatic towns. Dutch freight costs were much lower than those of the Hansa, and the Hansa were excluded as middlemen.
When Bruges, Antwerp and Holland all became part of the Duchy of Burgundy they actively tried to take over the monopoly of trade from the Hansa, and the staples market from Bruges was transferred to Amsterdam. The Dutch merchants aggressively challenged the Hansa and met with much success. Hanseatic cities in Prussia, Livonia, supported the Dutch against the core cities of the Hansa in northern Germany. After several naval wars between Burgundy and the Hanseatic fleets, Amsterdam gained the position of leading port for Polish and Baltic grain from the late 15th century onwards. The Dutch regarded Amsterdam's grain trade as the mother of all trades (Moedernegotie).
Nuremberg in Franconia developed an overland route to sell formerly Hansa-monopolised products from Frankfurt via Nuremberg and Leipzig to Poland and Russia, trading Flemish cloth and French wine in exchange for grain and furs from the east. The Hansa profited from the Nuremberg trade by allowing Nurembergers to settle in Hanseatic towns, which the Franconians exploited by taking over trade with Sweden as well. The Nuremberger merchant Albrecht Moldenhauer was influential in developing the trade with Sweden and Norway, and his sons Wolf Moldenhauer and Burghard Moldenhauer established themselves in Bergen and Stockholm, becoming leaders of the local Hanseatic activities.
End of the Hansa
At the start of the 16th century, the Hanseatic League found itself in a weaker position than it had known for many years.
In the Swedish War of Liberation 1521-1523 the Hanseatic League was successful in opposition in an economic conflict it had over the trade, mining and metal industry in Bergslagen (the main mining area of Sweden in the 16th century) with Jakob Fugger (early extremely rich industrialist in the mining and metal industry on the continent) and his unfriendly business take-over attempt. Fugger allied with his financially dependent pope Leo X, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Christian II of Denmark/Norway. Both sides made huge costly investments in support of larger amounts of expensive hired mercenaries to win the war. The Hanseatic League fully restored its power in Gustav Vasa's Sweden and Frederick I's Denmark, 1523 after the war.
However the Hanseatic League ended up on the wrong side 1536, after Christian III's victory in the Count's Feud in Scania and Denmark, with Sweden as his ally, money was gone, the Hanseatic League's influence in the Nordic countries was over. After that the Hanseatic League was only seen as an unwanted competitor by Denmark-Norway and Sweden.
Later in the 16th century, Denmark-Norway took control of much of the Baltic Sea. Sweden had regained control over its own trade, the Kontor in Novgorod had closed, and the Kontor in Bruges had become effectively moribund. The individual cities making up the league had also started to put self-interest before their common Hanseatic interests. Finally, the political authority of the German princes had started to grow, constraining the independence of the merchants and Hanseatic towns.
The league attempted to deal with some of these issues: it created the post of Syndic in 1556 and elected Heinrich Sudermann as a permanent official with legal training, who worked to protect and extend the diplomatic agreements of the member towns. In 1557 and 1579 revised agreements spelled out the duties of towns and some progress was made. The Bruges Kontor moved to Antwerp and the Hansa attempted to pioneer new routes. However the league proved unable to prevent the growing mercantile competition, and so a long decline commenced. The Antwerp Kontor closed in 1593, followed by the London Kontor in 1598. The Bergen Kontor continued until 1754; of all the Kontore, only its buildings, the Bryggen, survive.
The gigantic warship Adler von Lübeck was constructed for military use against Sweden during the Northern Seven Years' War (1563–70) but was never put to military use, epitomizing the vain attempts of Lübeck to uphold its long-privileged commercial position in a changing economic and political climate.
By the late 17th century, the league had imploded and could no longer deal with its own internal struggles. The social and political changes that accompanied the Protestant Reformation included the rise of Dutch and English merchants and the pressure of the Ottoman Empire upon the Holy Roman Empire and its trade routes.
In 1666, the Hanseatic Steelyard in London was burned down by the Great Fire of London. The Kontor-manager sent a letter to Lübeck appealing for immediate financial assistance for a reconstruction. Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck called for a Hanseatic Day in 1669. Only a few cities participated and those who came were very reluctant to contribute financially to the reconstruction. It was the last formal meeting.
Nonetheless, the Hanseatic Republics were able to jointly perform some diplomacy, such as a joint delegation to the United States in 1827, led by Vincent Rumpff; later the U.S. established a consulate to the Hanseatic and Free Cities from 1857 to 1862. Britain maintained diplomats to the Hanseatic Cities until the unification of Germany in 1871.
Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck remained as the only members until the League's demise in 1862, on the eve of the 1867 founding of the North German Confederation and the 1871 founding of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I. Until German reunification, these three cities were the only ones that retained the words "Hanseatic City" in their official German names. Since 1990, 24 other German cities have adopted this title.
After the disbandment of the Hanseatic League, the still significant trading cities of Hamburg and Bremen would be admitted to the German Customs Union (Zollverein) in 1888.
The members of the Hanseatic League were Low German merchants, whose towns were, with the exception of Dinant, where these merchants held citizenship. Not all towns with Low German merchant communities were members of the league (e.g., Emden, Memel (today Klaipėda), Viborg (today Vyborg) and Narva never joined). However, Hanseatic merchants could also come from settlements without German town law—the premise for league membership was birth to German parents, subjection to German law, and a commercial education. The league served to advance and defend the common interests of its heterogeneous members: commercial ambitions such as enhancement of trade, and political ambitions such as ensuring maximum independence from the noble territorial rulers.: 10–11 The Hanseatic League was by no means a monolithic organization or a 'state within a state' but rather a complex and loose-jointed confederation of protagonists pursuing their own interests, which coincided in a shared program of economic domination in the Baltic region.: 37–38
Decisions and actions of the Hanseatic League were the consequence of a consensus-based procedure. If an issue arose, the league's members were invited to participate in a central meeting, the Tagfahrt ("meeting ride", sometimes also referred to as Hansetag, since 1358). The member communities then chose envoys (Ratssendeboten) to represent their local consensus on the issue at the Tagfahrt. Not every community sent an envoy; delegates were often entitled to represent a set of communities. Consensus-building on local and Tagfahrt levels followed the Low Saxon tradition of Einung, where consensus was defined as absence of protest: after a discussion, the proposals which gained sufficient support were dictated aloud to the scribe and passed as binding Rezess if the attendees did not object; those favouring alternative proposals unlikely to get sufficient support were obliged to remain silent during this procedure. If consensus could not be established on a certain issue, it was found instead in the appointment of a number of league members who were then empowered to work out a compromise.: 70–72
The Hanseatic Kontore, which operated like an early stock exchange, each had their own treasury, court and seal. Like the guilds, the Kontore were led by Ältermänner ("eldermen", or English aldermen). The Stalhof Kontor, as a special case, had a Hanseatic and an English Ältermann. In 1347 the Kontor of Brussels modified its statute to ensure an equal representation of the league's members. To that end, member communities from different regions were pooled into three circles (Drittel ("third [part]"): the Wendish and Saxon Drittel, the Westphalian and Prussian Drittel as well as the Gothlandian, Livonian and Swedish Drittel). The merchants from their respective Drittel would then each choose two Ältermänner and six members of the Eighteen Men's Council (Achtzehnmännerrat) to administer the Kontor for a set period of time. In 1356, during a Hanseatic meeting in preparation of the first Tagfahrt, the league confirmed this statute. The league in general gradually adopted and institutionalized the division into Drittel (see table).: 62–63 
|Drittel (1356–1554)||Regions||Chief city (Vorort)|
|Wendish-Saxon||Holstein, Saxony, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Brandenburg||Lübeck|
|Westphalian-Prussian||Westphalia, Rhineland, Prussia||Dortmund, later Cologne|
|Gothlandian-Livonian-Swedish||Gotland, Livonia, Sweden||Visby, later Riga|
The Tagfahrt or Hansetag was the only central institution of the Hanseatic League. However, with the division into Drittel (= Thirds), the members of the respective subdivisions frequently held a Dritteltage ("Drittel meeting") to work out common positions which could then be presented at a Tagfahrt. On a more local level, league members also met, and while such regional meetings were never formalized into a Hanseatic institution, they gradually gained importance in the process of preparing and implementing Tagfahrt decisions.
From 1554, the division into Drittel was modified to reduce the circles' heterogeneity, to enhance the collaboration of the members on a local level and thus to make the league's decision-making process more efficient. The number of circles rose to four, so they were called Quartiere (quarters):
|Quartier (since 1554)||Chief city (Vorort)|
|Wendish and Pomeranian||Lübeck|
|Saxon, Thuringian and Brandenburg||Brunswick, Magdeburg|
|Prussia, Livonia and Sweden – or East Baltic: 120||Danzig (now Gdańsk)|
|Rhine, Westphalia and the Netherlands||Cologne|
This division was however not adopted by the Kontore, who, for their purposes (like Ältermänner elections), grouped the league members in different ways (e.g., the division adopted by the Stahlhof in London in 1554 grouped the league members into Dritteln, whereby Lübeck merchants represented the Wendish, Pomeranian Saxon and several Westphalian towns, Cologne merchants represented the Cleves, Mark, Berg and Dutch towns, while Danzig merchants represented the Prussian and Livonian towns).
Lists of former Hansa cities
The names of the Quarters have been abbreviated in the following table:
- Wendish: Wendish and Pomeranian (or just Wendish): 120 Quarter
- Saxon: Saxon, Thuringian and Brandenburg (or just Saxon): 120 Quarter
- Baltic: Prussian, Livonian and Swedish (or East Baltic): 120 Quarter
- Westphalian: Rhine-Westphalian and Netherlands (including Flanders) (or Rhineland): 120 Quarter
Kontor: The Kontore were foreign trading posts of the League, not cities that were Hanseatic members, and are set apart in a separate table below.
The remaining column headings are as follows:
- "City" is the name, with any variants.
- "Territory" indicates the jurisdiction to which the city was subject at the time of the League.
- "Now" indicates the modern nation-state in which the city is located.
- "From" and "Until" record the dates at which the city joined and/or left the league.
|Wendish||Lübeck||Free City of Lübeck||Germany||Capital of the Hanseatic League, capital of the Wendish and Pomeranian Circle|
|Wendish||Hamburg||Free City of Hamburg||Germany|
|Wendish||Lüneburg||Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg||Germany|
|Wendish||Wismar||Duchy of Mecklenburg||Germany||Joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty (Rostocker Landfrieden) in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards).|
|Wendish||Rostock||Duchy of Mecklenburg||Germany||Joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards).|
|Wendish||Stralsund||Principality of Rügen||Germany||1293||Rügen was a fief of the Danish crown to 1325. Stralsund joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards). From 1339 to the 17th century, Stralsund was a member of the Vierstädtebund with Greifswald, Demmin and Anklam.|
|Wendish||Demmin||Duchy of Pomerania||Germany||Joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards). From 1339 to the 17th century, Demmin was a member of the Vierstädtebund with Stralsund, Greifswald and Anklam.|
|Wendish||Greifswald||Duchy of Pomerania||Germany||Joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards). From 1339 to the 17th century, Greifswald was a member of the Vierstädtebund with Stralsund, Demmin and Anklam.|
|Wendish||Anklam||Duchy of Pomerania||Germany||Joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards). From 1339 to the 17th century, Anklam was a member of the Vierstädtebund with Stralsund, Greifswald and Demmin.|
|Wendish||Szczecin)||Duchy of Pomerania||Poland||1278||Joined the 10-year Rostock Peace Treaty in 1283, which was the predecessor of the federation of Wendish towns (1293 onwards); since the 14th century gradually adopted the role of a chief city for the Pomeranian Hanseatic towns to its east|
|Wendish||Pasewalk||Duchy of Pomerania||Germany|
|Wendish||Kołobrzeg)||Duchy of Pomerania||Poland|
|Wendish||Darłowo)||Duchy of Pomerania||Poland|
|Wendish||Słupsk)||Duchy of Pomerania||Poland|
|Baltic||Visby||Kingdom of Sweden||Sweden||1470||In 1285 at Kalmar, the League agreed with Magnus III, King of Sweden, that Gotland be joined with Sweden. In 1470, Visby's status was rescinded by the League, with Lübeck razing the city's churches in May 1525.|
|Baltic||Stockholm||Kingdom of Sweden||Sweden|
|Saxon||Braunschweig||Duchy of Saxony||Germany||13th century||17th century||Capital of the Saxon, Thuringian and Brandenburg Circle|
|Saxon||Bremen||Free City of Bremen||Germany||1260|
|Saxon||Magdeburg||Archbishopric of Magdeburg||Germany||13th century||Capital of the Saxon, Thuringian and Brandenburg Circle|
|Saxon||Goslar||Imperial City of Goslar||Germany||1267||1566||Goslar was a fief of Saxony until 1280.|
|Saxon||Erfurt||Archbishopric of Mainz||Germany||1430|
|Saxon||Stade||Archbishopric of Bremen||Germany|
|Saxon||Berlin||Margraviate of Brandenburg||Germany||1442||Brandenburg was raised to an Electorate in 1356. Elector Frederick II caused all the Brandenburg cities to leave the League in 1442.|
|Saxon||Frankfurt an der Oder||Margraviate of Brandenburg||Germany||1430||1442||Elector Frederick II caused all the Brandenburg cities to leave the League in 1442.|
|Baltic||Gdańsk)||Teutonic Order||Poland||1358||Capital of the Prussian, Livonian and Swedish (or East Baltic) Circle. Danzig had been first a part of the Duchy of Pomerelia with a Kashubian and German population, then part of the State of the Teutonic Order from 1308 until 1457. After the Second Peace of Thorn (1466) Danzig became an autonomous city under the protection of the Polish Crown until the 18th century when it returned to Prussia.|
|Baltic||Elbląg)||Teutonic Order||Poland||1358||Elbing had originally been part of the territory of the Old Prussians, until the 1230s when it became part of the State of the Teutonic Order. After the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), Royal Prussia, including Elbląg was part of the Kingdom of Poland.|
|Baltic||Toruń)||Teutonic Order||Poland||1280||Toruń was part of the State of the Teutonic Order from 1233 until 1466. After the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), Royal Prussia, including Toruń, was part of the Kingdom of Poland.|
|Baltic||Kraków||Kingdom of Poland||Poland||c. 1370||c. 1500||Kraków was the capital of the Kingdom of Poland, 1038–1596/1611. It adopted Magdeburg town law and 5000 Poles and 3500 Germans lived within the city proper in the 15th century; Poles steadily rose in the ranks of guild memberships reaching 41% of guild members in 1500. It was very loosely associated with Hansa, and paid no membership fees, nor sent representatives to League meetings.|
|Baltic||Wrocław)||Kingdom of Bohemia||Poland||1387||1474||Breslau, a part of the Duchy of Breslau and the Kingdom of Bohemia, was only loosely connected to the League and paid no membership fees nor did its representatives take part in Hansa meetings|
|Baltic||Königsberg (Kaliningrad)||Teutonic Order||Russia||1340||Königsberg was the capital of the Teutonic Order, becoming the capital of Ducal Prussia on the Order's secularisation in 1466. Ducal Prussia was a German principality that was a fief of the Polish crown until gaining its independence in the 1660 Treaty of Oliva. The city was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 after East Prussia was divided between the People's Republic of Poland and the Soviet Union at the Potsdam Conference.|
|Baltic||Riga||Terra Mariana (Livonia)||Latvia||1282||During the Livonian War (1558–83), Riga became a Free imperial city until the 1581 Treaty of Drohiczyn ceded Livonia to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until the city was captured by Sweden in the Polish–Swedish War (1621–1625).|
|Baltic||Tallinn)||Terra Mariana (Livonia)||Estonia||1285||On joining the Hanseatic League, Reval was a Danish fief, but was sold in 1346, with the rest of northern Estonia, to the Teutonic Order. In 1561, Reval became a dominion of Sweden.|
|Baltic||Tartu)||Terra Mariana (Livonia)||Estonia||1280s||The Bishopric of Dorpat had increasing autonomy within the Terra Mariana (Livonian confederation). With the Treaty of Drohiczyn in 1581, Dorpat fell under the rule of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until the city was captured by Sweden in the Polish–Swedish War (1621–1625).|
|Westphalian||Cologne||Imperial City of Cologne||Germany||1669||Capital of the Rhine-Westphalian and Netherlands Circle until after the Anglo-Hanseatic War (1470–74), when the city was prosecuted in 1475 with temporary trade sanctions (German: Verhanst) for some years for having supported England; Dortmund was made capital of the Circle. Cologne also was called "Electorate of Cologne" (German: Kurfürstentum Köln or Kurköln). In June 1669 the last Hanseday was held in the town of Lübeck by the last remaining Hanse members, amongst others Cologne.|
|Westphalian||Dortmund||Imperial City of Dortmund||Germany||After Cologne was excluded after the Anglo-Hanseatic War (1470–74), Dortmund was made capital of the Rhine-Westphalian and Netherlands Circle.|
|Westphalian||Deventer||Bishopric of Utrecht||Netherlands||1000||1500|
|Westphalian||Kampen||Bishopric of Utrecht||Netherlands||1441|
|Westphalian||Münster||Prince-Bishopric of Münster||Germany|
|Westphalian||Osnabrück||Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück||Germany||12th century|
|Westphalian||Soest||Imperial City of Soest||Germany||1609||The city was a part of the Electorate of Cologne until acquiring its freedom in 1444–49, after which it aligned with the Duchy of Cleves.|
(Foreign trading posts of the League)
|Kontor||Novgorod: Peterhof||Novgorod Republic||Russia||1500s||Novgorod was one of the principal Kontore of the League and the easternmost. In 1499, Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow, closed the Peterhof; it was reopened a few years later, but the League's Russian trade never recovered.|
|Kontor||Bergen: Bryggen||Kingdom of Norway||Norway||1360||1775||Bryggen was one of the principal Kontore of the League. It was razed by accidental fire in 1476. In 1560, administration of Bryggen was placed under Norwegian administration.|
|Kontor||Bruges: Hanzekantoor||County of Flanders||Belgium||Bruges was one of the principal Kontore of the League until the 15th century, when the seaway to the city silted up; trade from Antwerp benefiting from Bruges's loss.|
|Kontor||Steelyard||Kingdom of England||United Kingdom||1303||1853||The Steelyard was one of the principal Kontore of the League. King Edward I granted a Carta Mercatoria in 1303. The Steelyard was destroyed in 1469 and Edward IV exempted Cologne merchants, leading to the Anglo-Hanseatic War (1470–74). The Treaty of Utrecht, sealing the peace, led to the League purchasing the Steelyard outright in 1475, with Edward having renewed the League's privileges without insisting on reciprocal rights for English merchants in the Baltic. London merchants persuaded Elizabeth I to rescind the League's privileges on 13 January 1598; while the Steelyard was re-established by James I, the advantage never returned. Consulates continued however, providing communication during the Napoleonic Wars, and the Hanseatic interest was only sold in 1853.|
|Kontor||Antwerp||Duchy of Brabant||Belgium||Antwerp became a major Kontor of the League, particularly after the seaway to Bruges silted up in the 15th century, leading to its fortunes waning in Antwerp's favour, despite Antwerp's refusal to grant special privileges to the League's merchants. Between 1312 and 1406, Antwerp was a margraviate, independent of Brabant.|
|Kontor||Bishop's Lynn (King's Lynn)||Kingdom of England||United Kingdom||1751||The Hanseatic Warehouse was constructed in 1475 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht, allowing the League to establish a trading depot in Lynn for the first time. It is the only surviving League building in England.|
|Kontor||Ipswich||Kingdom of England||United Kingdom||Ipswich was a headport with jurisdiction over Colchester, Maldon and Harwich. In the 14th century, traders from Ipswich experienced problems when engaged in Hansa ports in the Baltic, with occasions when they were subject to mass arrests and seizure of goods. However, during the 15th century more positive relations developed with Hansa merchants from Cologne. However, by 1451 Ipswich bailiffs seized hanseatic ships and in 1456 hanseatic merchants complained of their ships being attacked and prevented from leaving the port. During the Anglo-Hanseatic War, Cologne merchants opposed the war and were suspended from the league. However, when the war was brought to an end by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1474, the trade with Cologne declined and by the end of the century the hanseatic trade in Ipswich was very limited.|
|Kontor||Malmö||Kingdom of Denmark||Sweden||15th century||Skåne (Scania) was Danish until ceded to Sweden by the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde, during the Second Northern War.|
|Kontor||Falsterbo||Kingdom of Denmark||Sweden||15th century||Skåne was Danish until ceded to Sweden by the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde, during the Second Northern War.|
|Kontor||Kaunas||Grand Duchy of Lithuania||Lithuania||1441||In 1398 traders guild with close ties to Hanseatic league appeared in Kaunas. Treaty with Hanseatic league was signed in 1441. The main office was located in the House of Perkūnas from 1441 till 1532.|
|Kontor||Pskov)||Pskov Republic||Russia||In the 12th and 13th centuries, Pskov adhered to the Novgorod Republic. It was captured by the Teutonic Order in 1241 and liberated by a Lithuanian prince, becoming a de facto sovereign republic by the 14th century.|
|Kontor||Polotsk||Principality of Polotsk||Belarus||Polotsk was an autonomous principality of Kievan Rus' until gaining its independence in 1021. From 1240, it became a vassal of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, being fully integrated into the Grand Duchy in 1307.|
Ports with Hansa trading posts
- Boston: 95
- Great Yarmouth
- King's Lynn
Other cities with a Hansa community
- Åbo (Turku)
- Arnhem: 432 
- Doesburg: 433
- Elburg: 433
- Fellin (Viljandi)
- Goldingen (Kuldīga)
- Harlingen
- Herford: 82 : 391
- Hindeloopen (Hylpen): 397 
- Kokenhusen (Koknese)
- Kulm (Chełmno)
- Leghorn: 98
- Lemsal (Limbaži)
- Lunna Wick
- Pernau (Pärnu)
- Roermond
- Roop (Straupe)
- Stargard: 476
- Stavoren (Starum): 398
- Walk (Valka)
- Weißenstein (Paide)
- Wenden (Cēsis): 60
- Wesenberg (Rakvere)
- Windau (Ventspils)
- Wolmar (Valmiera)
- Zutphen: 433
- Zwolle: 433, 439
Legacy Hanseatic connections
Despite its collapse, several cities still maintained the link to the Hanseatic League. Dutch cities including Groningen, Deventer, Kampen, Zutphen and Zwolle, and a number of German cities including Bremen, Buxtehude, Demmin, Greifswald, Hamburg, Lübeck, Lüneburg, Rostock, Stade, Stralsund, Uelzen and Wismar still call themselves Hanse cities (their car license plates are prefixed H, e.g. –HB– for "Hansestadt Bremen"). Hamburg and Bremen continue to style themselves officially as "free Hanseatic cities", with Lübeck named "Hanseatic City" (Rostock's football team is named F.C. Hansa Rostock in memory of the city's trading past). For Lübeck in particular, this anachronistic tie to a glorious past remained especially important in the 20th century. In 1937, the Nazi Party removed this privilege through the Greater Hamburg Act possibly because the Senat of Lübeck did not permit Adolf Hitler to speak in Lübeck during his 1932 election campaign. He held the speech in Bad Schwartau, a small village on the outskirts of Lübeck. Subsequently, he referred to Lübeck as "the small city close to Bad Schwartau."
After the EU enlargement to the East in May 2004 there were some experts who wrote about the resurrection of the Baltic Hansa.
The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names: the German airline Lufthansa (lit. "Air Hansa"); F.C. Hansa Rostock; Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, Netherlands; Hanze oil production platform, Netherlands; the Hansa Brewery in Bergen and the Hanse Sail in Rostock; DDG Hansa, which was a major German shipping company from 1881 until its bankruptcy and takeover by Hapag-Lloyd in 1980; Hansabank in Estonia, which has been rebranded into Swedbank; and Hansa-Park, one of the biggest theme parks in Germany.
Modern versions of the Hanseatic League
"City League The Hanse"
In 1980, former Hanseatic League members established a "new Hanse" in Zwolle. This league is open to all former Hanseatic League members and cities that share a Hanseatic Heritage. In 2012 the New Hanseatic league had 187 members. This includes twelve Russian cities, most notably Novgorod, which was a major Russian trade partner of the Hansa in the Middle Ages. The "new Hanse" fosters and develops business links, tourism and cultural exchange.
Each year one of the member cities of the New Hansa hosts the Hanseatic Days of New Time international festival.
New Hanseatic League
The New Hanseatic League was established in February 2018 by finance ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden through the signing of a foundational document which set out the countries' "shared views and values in the discussion on the architecture of the EMU".
In popular culture
- In the Patrician series of trading simulation video games, the player assumes the role of a merchant in any of several cities of the Hanseatic League.
- In the Saga of Seven Suns series of space opera novels by American writer Kevin J. Anderson, the human race has colonized multiple planets in the Spiral Arm, most of which are governed by the powerful Terran Hanseatic League (Hansa).
- Hansa Teutonica is a German board game designed by Andreas Steding and published by Argentum Verlag in 2009.
- In the Metro franchise of post-apocalyptic novels and video games, a trading alliance of stations called The Commonwealth of the Stations of the Ring Line is also known as the Hanseatic League, usually shortened to Hansa or Hanza.
- Baltic maritime trade (c. 1400–1800)
- Bay Fleet
- Brick Gothic
- Company of Merchant Adventurers of London
- Hanseatic Cross
- Hanseatic Days of New Time
- Hanseatic flags
- Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene
- Hanseatic Trade Center
- History of Bremen (City)
- Maritime republics
- Peasants' Republic
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The following cities were also connected with the League, but did not have representation in the Diet, nor responsibility: (...) Leghorn, Lisbon, London, Marseilles, Messina,Naples (...)
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- 29th International Hansa Days in Novgorod
- 30th International Hansa Days 2010 in Parnu-Estonia
- Chronology of the Hanseatic League
- Hanseatic Cities in the Netherlands
- Hanseatic League Historical Re-enactors
- Hanseatic Towns Network
- Hanseatic League related sources in the German Wikisource
- Colchester: a Hanseatic port – Gresham
- The Lost Port of Sutton: Maritime trade