Hanseatic League

Elckerlyc

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This was a totally new one on me, a medieval trading network.
Hanseatic League
I knew about the Hanseactic league, though not of it's London connection. I suppose the 'Hansa' cities are more common knowledge on the
north-west of the continent. Incedently, I sorely miss the Dutch Hanseatic cities on that map at the bottom!

If you are interested, have a look at this very interesting book:

or what about the history of the Silk Roads, a truly fascinating read:

Trade networks are of all ages.
 

sknox

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The Hansa was my first research love. Going in to grad school I was pretty sure I was going to be a Hanseatic historian ... until it sank in that to read the literature I'd have to learn not only Latin and German, but Polish, Swedish, and probably Russian. I retreated to southern German instead. But I continue to find the whole region fascinating.

Pet peeve: there are far, far too many fantasy books set in England or Scotland. And if it's pseudo-medieval, it uses England as its model. On my list of stories to write is one set somewhere between the Elbe and the Vistula, a fantasy reworking of the long battle between Christians and pagans across the Elbe. And another, set a couple centuries later, up around Novgorod or in Livonia that would make use of a mercantile league.

That map is awfully sketchy. There were over 200 towns that belonged to the league at one point or another.
 

Abernovo

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This was a totally new one on me, a medieval trading network.
I think I've mentioned the Hanseatic League before on the Chrons. In a similar way to sknox, perhaps, it's been of interest to me for a long time. The idea of an international trading partnership, crossing borders, and with formalised trading agreements made at an almost diplomat level is rich for story mining.

They were able to force things through by legal and trade contracts, rather than simply sheer force of arms (although using local powers to fight their causes was also an option). Hansa ports and communities were dotted around the coast of Scotland and England, from Bristol to King's Lynn, on to Hull, Leith, Aberdeen and beyond; part of London was a Hanseatic kontor. From any of these places, you could deal directly with Bergen, or Danzig (modern day Gdansk), most of the Baltic coast, and then out to the Netherlands. And, each city along had its own trade network, meaning you could end up with goods from all over the known world.

Plus, there was a banking system, which allowed credit to be used in one port on collateral from another. Purely as a taster, and link to sources, Wikipedia has a decent page on the league.

On a similar note, it's interesting to note the number of sailors in British (and presumably other Northern European) sea towns, of the 18th Century and before, who originated from South Asia and Africa. There have always been trading routes; ships companies were often varied, needing new recruits and local knowledge of mariners who might stay on for a while; and wherever they settled, they either brought families with them, or made new ones.
 

sknox

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Phillipe Dollinger's book, The German Hansa is a good introduction. It's old, but doesn't suffer from the arguments that get layered into more recent works.

The Hansa is also a great example of how an institution can run badly and yet survive for centuries. The members were as contrary and fickle as any House of Representatives, but it was still a better option than each town trying to make its way alone. The later Middle Ages was a heyday for town leagues of all sorts. And again: rich soil for story telling, hardly touched by fantasy writers.
 
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