>>572042 Novgorod, Bruges. Obviously the influence in itself stretched farther than that, especially in the case of Novgorod where they where the end destination for most of the North West Asian raw materials. No idea if they had any colony or posts on the white sea but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. I wish to know more as well, it seems they faded over the years in favor of nation states especially Hanover, Prussia and the Netherlands.
>>572042 From what I understand, it really only came about because of the fairly small size of ships at the time. Most Baltic trade was conducted on ~100 ton cogs, so going from one end of the Baltic to the other required lots of port-hopping. That meant a city's trade was very vulnerable to hostility from those who lived around the trade routes. Securing an amicable relationship with the cities was necessary if you wanted to continue trading, so naturally something like the Hanseatic League would come about to streamline this.
Problem was that they were a weird quasi-governmental organization that didn't really have the means or willpower to compete with the real regional powers. They were fine as long as the trade that brought them about was preserved, but with the rise of the Baltic powers like Denmark, Sweden, and Poland, they became increasingly vulnerable. Denmark, for example, became so powerful because they could enact tolls for shipping going in and out of the Baltic, and the Hanseatic League couldn't really stop that.
Worse, the rise of large ships meant that making all of these stops at ports along the way wasn't necessary anymore. All of those Baltic ports stopped being so important, so, while the number of ships coming into and out of the Baltic may have increased (5,400 passing through Danish tolls in 1583, three times the number from 50 years before), few of those ships were stopping at what had previously been important stop-overs. Worse, the focus of international trade was shifting away from the Baltic and to more promising endeavours, particularly India and the New World.
And then, as all of this was gradually declining, the 30 Years' War came along and fucked up everything.
>>573317 Their decline happened for a variety of reasons:
>Rise of other powers The League came into being back when the majority of Europe consisted of fairly small, decentralized kingdoms. As those kingdoms centralized, they grew to rival the League. The Danes became so powerful in part because they controlled the only way in and out of the Baltic and were able to monopolize the tolls. The Poles and Swedes were also working to take capitalize on tolls in Prussia and Pomerania, albeit to a lesser extent. Denmark in particular was fairly aggressive, trying to subvert the League by extending their influence down to the Elbe from their holdings in Holstein.
>Increase in ship sizes and associated shifts in trade The old Cogs and Holks that had been the staple of Baltic trade were slowly being replaced by much larger sailing ships like the Galleon. These far larger ships were more independent, allowing many tolls to be bypassed altogether. Think of it how highways kill small towns - it worked something like that. As those ships came into use, you also had the discovery of the New World. Spices, silver, slaves, and cash crops were far more lucrative than the furs, amber, timber, and wax that came from the Baltic, so traders shifted their focus away from the region as the New World became more accessible. Of course there was still trade reaching the region - a huge amount of grain traveled through the Baltic - so the numbers of ships were increasing (if Danish tolls are to be believed), but that seemed more a symptom of the increasing population of Germany and Holland.
>>574176 >Waning trust in the League The members of the League recognized that they couldn't really compete with the larger kingdoms militarily, but the League had no real provisions for a military - nor was a loose alliance of coastal city-states really conducive to military prowess. With a hostile Denmark to their north, many Hanseatic cities sought refuge in the HRE, getting themselves into a peculiar situation where the League preserved their autonomy and absolved them of of the jurisdiction of local rulers, but they didn't quite hold the privileged position of an Imperial City. So, while HRE membership was more protection than they otherwise would have had, it served to create animosity between League members and the local powers that surrounded them - something the Danes capitalized on. All the while, the League gets undermined as more and more members show that they had so little faith in the alliance that they had turned to foreign powers for help. Even Lubeck - the founding city of the League - joined the HRE.
>30 Years' War What really ruined everything was the 30 Years' War. As pic related shows, the hardest hit areas of the war were where the League was most prominent. When Magdeburg fell in 1631, the city of 25,000 was devastated so badly that a census from February the next year put the population at fewer than 500. The League was hit with some of the worst parts of the war, from the devastation brought by Wallenstein and Gustavus' armies to plague and famine. Worse, the means of levying funds for armies that both sides relied on put immense economic strain on the areas affected. With the Peace of Westphalia massively decentralizing the HRE, what few members that survived were forced to find a new sphere of influence to fall under. Most of North Germany was now either under Swedish or Brandenburg control, and the HRE was no longer strong enough for members to seek refuge in. The League would survive the war, but only three members remained at its end
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