Initially, the Hanze was a co-operation between merchants from various cities, which arose in the thirtheenth century in Germany. This group would get legal protection and trade priviliges from the countries. There was in fact a kind of common European market where certain trade-agreements applied.
Gradually the cooperation evolved to a organisation of cities. Although a list of members doesn’t exist, there are documents that prove that some Dutch cities were in fact member. ( Kampen,Deventer, Zutphen, Harderwijk etc. ) It would happen frequently that the Hanze cities had conflicting interests, but the disputes were almost always settled peacefully by means of a explicit accepted arbitration.
The foundations of the Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading cities that for a time in the later Middle Ages and the Early Modern period maintained a trade monopoly over most of Northern Europe and the Baltic, can be seen as early as the 12th century. At about this time, merchants in a given city began to form societies, or Hanse, with the intention of trading with foreign cities. These societies worked to acquire special trade privileges for their members. For example, the merchants of Cologne were able to convince Henry II of England to grant them special trading privileges and market rights in 1157.
In second half of the fifteenth century, the Hanze came more and more in conflict with the growing tendency towards national and regional care of interests. It was clear that the conservative and protectionistic trade system of the Hanze could not maintain itself. Trade shifted to the Dutch and Zealand cities and the Hanze lost its hegemony, as most of its members lost their importance.
The townsmen of Dortrecht were also organized in a gild which they called a “hanse.”
Theodore, Count of Holland:
Grant of a Hanse to the Citizens of Dortrecht, 1200
I, Theodore, by the grace of God, Count of Holland, and Adelaide, Countess of Holland, my wife, wish it to be known to all, both present
and future, that we decree that our townsmen of Dortrecht may enjoy in their own right the following freedom in the said town, namely, that it is permitted to no one in Dortrecht to cut cloth for retail sale except to those who are designated by this trade, being called cutters of cloth, and except they be in the hanse and fraternity of the townsmen belonging to Dortrecht.
And that this charter, instituted by us, may forever be secure and intact, we corroborate it by affixing our seals thereto,
and the signatures of witnesses.
These are the witnesses, etc.,
From: C. Gross, The Gild Merchant, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1890), Vol. I, p. 293, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), p. 219.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.
The other text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history. The photois a file from the Wikimedia Commons