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Bridging the gap: the hanseatic merchants’ variable strategies in heterogeneous mercantile environments

Bridging the gap: the hanseatic merchants’ variable strategies in heterogeneous mercantile environments

By Ulf Christian Ewert and Stephan Selzer

XIV International Economic History Congress (2006)

Abstract: The merchants of the German Hanse in the 14th–16th centuries were confronted with a great deal of heterogeneity: Not only were they, in having not been specialised in the trade of particular goods only, acquainted with the exchange of a wide range of products, and had to act within the different organisational structures of the Hanse. They especially had to cope with mercantile environments that were differing tremendously inside the catchment area of the Hanse. In this paper, various dimensions of heterogeneity within the Hanse are described and the merchants’ strategies deployed in order to compensate for possible negative implications of heterogeneity are discussed. It turns out, that with risk diversification, with a harmonisation of weights and measures, through a homogenisation of juridical regulations and by maintaining the pattern of reciprocal trading merchants could bridge the massive gap that existed between the western and the northeastern regions of the German Hanse’s realm.

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