The Hanseatic League

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Hanseatic League or Hansa which dominated North European trade in the medieval period. With a trading network that stretched from Iceland to Novgorod via London and Bruges, these German-speaking Hansa merchants benefitted from tax exemptions and monopolies. Over time, the Hansa became immensely influential as rulers felt the need to treat it well. Kings and princes sometimes relied on loans from the Hansa to finance their wars and an embargo by the Hansa could lead to famine. Eventually, though, the Hansa went into decline with the rise in the nation state’s power, greater competition from other merchants and the development of trade across the Atlantic.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz No other episodes
    Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Amsterdam
  • Georg Christ No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern History at the University of Manchester
  • Sheilagh Ogilvie No other episodes
    Chichele Professor of Economic History at All Souls College, University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Public Power in Europe: Studies in Historical Transformations
    James S. Amelang and Siegfried Beer (Plus-Pisa University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • Late Medieval Ipswich: Trade and Industry
    Nicholas R. Amor (Boydell & Brewer, 2011) Google Books →
  • The German Ocean: Medieval Europe around the North Sea
    B. Ayers (Equinox, 2016) Google Books →
  • The German Hanse in Past & Present Europe: A medieval league as a model for modern interregional cooperation?
    H. Brand and P. Brood (Castel International Publishers, 2007)
  • The Trade and Shipping of Hull, 1300-1500
    Wendy R. Childs (East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1990)
  • Hanseatic League: Oxford Bibliographies
    Alexander Cowan (Oxford University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • The German Hansa
    Philippe Dollinger (Macmillan, 1970) Google Books →
  • Cargoes, Embargoes and Emissaries: The Commercial and Political Interaction of England and the German Hanse, 1450-1510
    John D. Fudge (University of Toronto Press, 1995) Google Books →
  • A Companion to the Hanseatic League
    Donald J. Harreld (Brill, 2015)
  • England and the German Hanse, 1157 - 1611: A Study of their Trade and Commercial Diplomacy
    T.H. Lloyd (Cambridge University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Maritime networks as a factor in European integration
    Giampiero Nigro (ed.) (Fondazione Istituto Internazionale Di Storia Economica "F. Datini" Prato, University of Firenze, 2019)
  • Institutions and European Trade: Merchant Guilds, 1000-1800
    Sheilagh Ogilvie (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Six Essays in Hanseatic History
    Paul Richards (ed.) (Poppyland Publishing, 2017) Google Books →
  • King's Lynn and The German Hanse 1250-1550: A Study in Anglo-German Medieval Trade and Politics
    Paul Richards (Poppyland Publishing, 2022)
  • The Overseas Trade of Boston, 1279-1548
    Stephen H. Rigby (Bohlau Verlag, 2023) Google Books →
  • The Hanse in Medieval & Early Modern Europe
    Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz and Stuart Jenks (eds.) (Brill, 2012) Google Books →
  • The late medieval and early modern Hanse as an institution of conflict management
    Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Related episodes

Programme ID: m001vshs

Episode page:

Auto-category: 380 (Commerce, communications, and transportation)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. For much of the medieval period, the Hanseatic League, or Hansa, dominated trade around the Baltic and the North Sea, with bases from London to Bruges, Bergen to Novgorod.