What was the Hanseatic League?


Quick Answer

Hanseatic League was a group of merchant traders and market towns that controlled the trade routes of Northern Europe between the 13th and 17th centuries. The routes covered the area from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea.

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Full Answer

The earliest dated mention of the Hanseatic League goes back to 1267. The group sought to expedite trade by removing restrictions for member traders. In its early years, the group organized trade around the cities of Bruges, London and Bergen. From 1356 to 1554, the Hanseatic League was divided into three groups known as Drittel, which were the Wendish-Saxon Drittel, Westphalian-Prussian Drittel and Gothlandian-Livonian-Swedish Drittel. After 1554, the group was divided into Quarters, with a focus on the major cities of Lubeck, Brunswick, Magdeburg, Danzig and Cologne. Lubeck was also the capital of the Hanseatic League.

When it was at its strongest, the Hanseatic League became a military power, which was used primarily to protect trade routes. Between 1361 and 1370, the League waged a successful war against Denmark as well as a lengthy campaign against pirates and state-sponsored privateers from 1392 to 1440. The league began to weaken at the start of the 16th century, as trade routes in the Baltic were taken over by the Swedish Empire and divisions began to arise between members due to the Protestant Reformation.

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