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The Town of Lübeck and its Role in the Hanseatic League

  Lübeck   (click on images to enlarge)

Lübeck first appeared in history as a trading-post between the Christian west and the pagan east during the eleventh century. It was destroyed by Slav raiders, but then rebuilt on a more secure site c.1142. In 1159 the town received considerable support from Henry the Lion and later by the Hofenstaufen emperors. Lübeck became a free imperial town in 1226.

By the second half of the thirteenth century, Lübeck merchants were to be found throughout the north European trading routes. Henry III of England granted them the right to form a Hansa, or trading association similar to that enjoyed by the merchants from Köln.

By the end of the thirteenth century, Lübeck had become the leader of a much wider Hansa. This was a loose association of German trading towns which acted together to defend and to expand their trading interests.

For the next two hundred years, northern European and Baltic trade was dominated by the Hansa. Hanseatic merchants brought furs, was timber and grain from Russia, Prussia and Poland. In return they sold fish, salt and wine. They shipped English wool to the Flemish weavers and sold Baltic timber in return. They also dealt in German beer and Swedish copper and iron.

The Hanseatic League lasted until the late seventeenth century. It had managed to defend its interests by purely economic means, such as blockades and sanctions. In the end, it was the closing of the Russian markets and increasing competition from the Dutch, together with the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that led to its demise.



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