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Nothing to do with sports, the Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of cities and guild centred around the Baltic and North Sea coasts of Europe from the 13th century to the 17th century, specifically Northern Germany, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's modern borders. Key locations included Lubeck, Rostock, Danzig (now Gdansk) and Riga.

Designed to provide protection for mutual economic interests, they established trading posts as far apart as London and Novgorod (not to be confused with Nizhny Novgorod). They provided protection against pirates, trained harbour pilots and had periodic diets (that's assemblies). They were pretty protectionist and liked to get monopolies, and sometimes engaged in military warfare. (In their heyday, they had a word in who sat on the Danish and Swedish thrones).

Topping out about 100 cities in the 14th century, the League gradually declined as its lack of central government (partly to avoid legal problems against a single entity) caused a problem against competition from Scandinavian merchants and the Dutch. Once America was opened up, the death knell was sound and the last diet was held in 1669.

Its legacy lives on in a number of Dutch and German cities calling themselves "Hanseatic" (including the German states of Bremen and Hamburg, both of which call themselves "Free and Hanseatic Cities"). There is also the New Hanse, a voluntary association of cities that began in 1980.

In fiction

  • In the video game Patrician, you are a trader trying to get to the head of the League.
  • The book Metro 2033 features the Commonwealth of the Stations of the Ring Line who are called the Hansa/ the Hanse by everybody else due to their hypercapitalistic and decentralized nature.
  • An organisation of the same name appears in Perry Rhodan, although it's called "Cosmic House" in English translation. It is literally the Hanseatic League In Space.
  • The League, under the name "The Hansa", is a playable country in Europa Universalis 3.

In real life

  • The German airline Lufthansa (literally: Hansa of the Air) tries to invoke the heritage of the Hanseatic League.
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