A Liga Hanseática foi uma poderosa confederação comercial e defensiva de guildas mercantis (e cidades) que, estendendo-se de Londres até Novgorod, veio a dominar o comércio ao longo das costas da Europa Setentrional (Mar do Norte e Mar Báltico) entre os séculos XIII e XVII. Ela foi criada para proteger os interesses econômicos e os privilégios diplomáticos de seus membros nas cidades, países e rotas que percorriam em suas atividades. As cidades hanseáticas possuíam seus próprios sistema jurídico e forças armadas (voltadas para proteção mútua). Contudo, a organização não era uma confederação de cidades-estado, apenas pequeno número das cidades-membro desfrutava de autonomia e liberdades comparáveis ao equivalente setentional das comunas italianas, as cidades imperiais livres.
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This study examines the economic and political disputes betweens England and the German Hanse in the fifteenth century, with the aim of assessing the impact of the Anglo-Hanseatic War (1468-74) on the Hanse’s trade with England and evaluating the war’s political repercussions within the Hanseatic community. Essentially this war was a conflict between an English merchant community intent on mercantile expansion and the Hanseatic confederation which was determined to preserve its commercial monopoly in northern Europe, but which also was torn by the particularism of civic and regional economic interests. The exclusion of the Hansards from English foreign trade during the war years resulted in significant, but not necessarily all pervasive or identical consequences in each of the principal trading ports of eastern England. Though the English government eventually acquiesced to virtually every Hanseatic demand in order to end the war in 1474, the conflict, nevertheless, also had far reaching effects on political unity within the German Hanse. Most notably was Cologne’s attempt to disassociate herself from the Hanse, but no less important to the once formidable trading confederation were the diverse responses of other leading Hanseatic cities to the challenge of England’s commercial elite.
Introduction: In the High Middle Ages, confederations of towns were the dominant characteristic of Germany, since the organization of the Empire was loose enough to allow a kind of independence to the growing cities. However, these semi-independent towns were subject to many dangers because of the inability of the central government to offer them protection in their commercial transactions. Their merchants were exposed either to the tyranny of the nobles or to the depredations of the pirates. In addition, there were excessive tolls and tariffs on roads and rivers. On the Rhine alone there were sixty custom-frontiers, and tolls had to be paid every time someone wanted to pass through the river.
This situation made, little by little, the German cities to league in defensive associations. There were already earlier confederations: the Swabian, the Westphalian, the Rhenish Leagues, which were mainly composed by southern and central German cities and were seeking for political power in the administration of the country. Those leagues were directed against the territorial lords and tried to find ways to protect trade routes. However, these leagues had no organization, no real economic cohesion, and most of the times, some towns suspected their allies for profiting from the situation. That is why these associations of towns became gradually less significant. On the other hand, a great northern confederation based on purely commercial foundations started to take shape and was going to have a future completely different from the others. This Confederation was the Hanse of the North German cities or the Hanseatic League.
The imperial control over the north cities was even looser than that of central and south Germany. The geography of the territory played the greatest role in order for mercantile enterprises to seem boundless. Towns favorably situated on harbors or rivers, like Hamburg, Rostock, and Lubeck, became great by developing new lines of trade, and by capturing and monopolizing the commerce of others, mainly that of Slavonic traders along the Baltic shores or that of Scandinavian traders.
The German Hanse was the most successful and most far-flung trade
association that existed in medieval and early-modern Europe. Inevitably
it appears prominently in every general study of trade, sometimes under the
label of’the Hanseatic League5. This, however, is the first study to be
devoted to relations between the Hanse and England throughout the entire
period of their contact, which lasted for some 500 years.
The relationship between England and the Hanse was based upon
commercial exchange, and as a consequence much of this work is devoted
to trade. The composition of trade is analysed, and the fluctuations in its
volume and value are reconstructed from primary sources, chiefly customs
accounts. But trade was often made possible only by intensive political and
diplomatic bargaining between the two sides, sometimes at the level of
merchant and merchant, at other times between the English government
and the Hanse diet, the highest authority within the German organisation.
This aspect of the relationship is explored in equal detail. The book also
synthesises existing scholarship and makes many original contributions to
the study of the Hanse, often by re-examining accepted theories.
Foundation of the alliance between Lübeck and Hamburg (circa 1241)