The Hanseatic League (also known as the Hanse or Hansa) was an economic alliance of trading cities and their guilds that established and maintained a trade monopoly along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland, during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c.13th–17th centuries). The Hanseatic cities had their own law system and furnished their own protection and mutual aid, thus having a sort of a political autonomy and in some cases creating political entities of their own.
Historians generally trace the origins of the League to the rebuilding of the North German town of Lübeck in 1159 by Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony, after Henry had captured the area from Count Adolf II of Holstein.
Exploratory trading adventures, raids and piracy had happened earlier throughout the Baltic (see Vikings)—the sailors of Gotland sailed up rivers as far away as Novgorod, for example—but the scale of international trade economy in the Baltic area remained insignificant before the growth of the Hanseatic League.
German cities achieved domination of trade in the Baltic with striking speed over the next (i.e. 13th) century, and Lübeck became a...
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