Interorganizational Relationships in Medieval Trade: An Analysis of the Hanseatic League

  •  Eric G. Kirb    


The Hanseatic League was a commercial federation of guilds and cities in the Baltic region that dominated trade in northern Europe during the later Middle Ages. At its peak, it linked traders and market towns from England to Russia and most ports in between.  It worked to remove trade barriers and provide security to its members. Employing an analytically structured approach, this study analyzes secondary sources to investigate the relationships between the members of the Hanse as well as the primary motivations driving the formation of the Hanseatic League. When this is analyzed as a federation style of interorganizational relationship, the five defining key contingencies become apparent: (1) power asymmetries in the High Middle Ages existed for the merchants with the balance of power in favor of monarchs; (2) individual guilds found it beneficial to establish ongoing relationships with other guilds; (3) economies of scope and scale allowed for efficiencies that would lead to trade dominance; (4) merchants sought more stable and predictable open access to markets across northern Europe; and (5) with the decline of feudalism, guilds sought to increase the acceptance and privilege of their community.  The Hanseatic League’s formation was also based on a sixth key factor: security for its members.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1918-7173
  • ISSN(Online): 1918-7181
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: quarterly

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