Aspects of the Anglo-Hanseatic conflict in the fifteenth century

Aspects of the Anglo-Hanseatic conflict in the fifteenth century

Fudge, John D.

Master of Arts, McGill University, March (1983)


This study examines the economic and political disputes betweens England and the German Hanse in the fifteenth century, with the aim of assessing the impact of the Anglo-Hanseatic War (1468-74) on the Hanse’s trade with England and evaluating the war’s political repercussions within the Hanseatic community. Essentially this war was a conflict between an English merchant community intent on mercantile expansion and the Hanseatic confederation which was determined to preserve its commercial monopoly in northern Europe, but which also was torn by the particularism of civic and regional economic interests. The exclusion of the Hansards from English foreign trade during the war years resulted in significant, but not necessarily all pervasive or identical consequences in each of the principal trading ports of eastern England.  Though the English government eventually acquiesced to virtually every Hanseatic demand in order to end the war in 1474, the conflict, nevertheless, also had far reaching effects on political unity within the German Hanse. Most notably was Cologne’s attempt to disassociate  herself from the Hanse, but no less important to the once formidable trading confederation were the diverse responses of other leading Hanseatic cities to the challenge of England’s commercial elite.

Introduction: The German Hanse, whose rise and decline spanned almost four centuries, was a rather unique institution in late medieval Europe. Unlike Italian or south German city leagues, which were established primarily for military purposes, the Hanse was a confederation of trading cities created to promote and protect the economic interests of its membership. As its influence increased, the Hanse eventually came to monopolize trade and commerce in northern Europe during the later Middle Ages, and in doing so played an integral role in the development of the medieval European economy. It maintained trading links with all regions of Europe, and benefitted from preferential legislation in many foreign lands, while at the same time dominating domestic production, trade, transport and finance within Scandinavia and the northern German territories.

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