Episode 115 – War with Denmark Part 1

By the end of the 13th century the key foundations of the Hanseatic League are laid. The trade routes that connect the Baltic to Western Europe are largely under the control of merchants who had come from Northern Germany and settled along the Baltic shore. Four great Kontors in Novgorord, Bergen, Bruges and London have been set up. The cities that make up the League, from Tallin to Cologne have gained city laws, built their walls and selected their city councils.

We are now entering the Calamitous 14th Century, a time of war, spiritual disorientation, plague and deteriorating climate. These four riders of the apocalypse devastate formerly flourishing lands and cities across Western Europe, delivering a sucker punch that brings 300 years of economic expansion to a screeching halt. But, as they say in Asterix, “all of europe is occupied with the challenges of the 14th century. Well not entirely. There is a corner of the world where a league of merchant cities is heading for the zenith of its economic, financial and military power…”

Hello and welcome to the History of the Germans: Episode 115 – The War with Denmark Part I

By the end of the 13th century the key foundations of the Hanseatic League are laid. The trade routes that connect the Baltic to Western Europe are largely under the control of merchants who had come from Northern Germany and settled along the Baltic shore. Four great Kontors in Novgorord, Bergen, Bruges and London have been set up. The cities that make up the League, from Tallin to Cologne have gained city laws, built their walls and selected their city councils.

We are now entering the Calamitous 14th Century, a time of war, spiritual disorientation, plague and deteriorating climate. These four riders of the apocalypse devastate formerly flourishing lands and cities across Western Europe, delivering a sucker punch that brings 300 years of economic expansion to a screeching halt. But, as they say in Asterix, “all of europe is occupied with the challenges of the 14th century. Well not entirely. There is a corner of the world where a league of merchant cities is heading for the zenith of its economic, financial and military power…”

Before we get into this fascinating subject it is time to do my little plea for support again. As the History of the Germans has grown and grown these last two years, it has also taken up more and more of my life. That is great for me, because I massively enjoy doing this, but it is bad news for my cash balance, since all that fun keeps me from other money generating activities. I have been offered a not insignificant boost to my income if I were to allow advertising in the show, an offer I have rejected.

Which means the podcast remains advertising free and even more dependent on the support from my lovely patrons. I really appreciate the support you guys provide and am extremely grateful. And if anyone of you who is not yet a patron and wants to bask in all that appreciation and gratitude, you can do so by signing up on patreon.com/historyofthegermans or on my website, historyofthegermans.com/support. All that from the price of a chocolate Croissant per month which isn’t even good for you. And thanks a lot to Brian W., Ian R., Richard K. and Pietya who have already signed up.

I guess it is time we re-anchor this story on the timeline. These last episodes we did look at how the various major trading routes of the Hanse got established and how they each developed during the 12th, 13th and 14th century. By and large I tried to get each of these stories to the middle of the 14th century which I think has worked out more or less, which means the podcast has now -after a mere 115 episodes officially progressed into the late Middle Ages – Yipee!!

That is sadly the last outburst of joy you are going to hear about the Calamitous 14th Century as Barbara Tuchman called it in her most famous book, the Distant Mirror. I know that her take on the period has suffered a lot of criticism over the years, and that some of her assessments are no longer standing up to historical scrutiny. But still it is an exceptionally well written book and some of her elementary notions about the 14th century are still valid.

To summarise it, the 14th century was not great.

It was particularly not great of you were French. The Hundred-Years war kicks off in 1337 and brings death, famine and misery to Northern and South-Western France. What kept the devastation going for so long was the combination of England’s superiority in open battles and her complete inability to hold on to the territorial gains in a country many times larger and many times richer than itself. The unending conflict created mercenary troops that roamed the land even during periods when the parties were at least officially at peace.

Meanwhile the transfer of the papacy from Rome to Avignon and hence under the control of the French monarch was seen as a travesty by contemporaries. Things got worse when Saint Caterine of Siena – famous for an obsession with blood and Jesus’ foreskin – galvanised public opinion to the point that pope Gregory XI returned to Rome. Once arrived the pope promptly died, resulting in a schism where the cardinals in Avignon and those in Rome each elected a pope. Attempts to resolve the situation by making both popes stand down and elect a new one resulted in three competing popes.

We may not regard this as overly concerning but for the medieval mind that was a catastrophe. Choosing the wrong pope could result in being cast down into the sixth circle of hell trapped in flaming tombs. You may find yourself in august company, for instance Frederick II is supposed to reside here, but it still sounds quite uncomfortable.

Overshadowing all this was the great scourge of the 14th century, The Black Death. It first appeared in Europe in 1346, brought in most likely by Genoese traders who had picked it up during the siege of their colony of Caffa in Crimea (pronounce Kri-moia). Allegedly the besieging Mongols had brought the plague from central Asia. When their soldiers had succumbed to the disease their corpses were trebucheted into the town to force its surrender. Caffa unfortunately resisted the siege and the returning Genoese distributed the disease across the Mediterranean.

The Black Death is caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis, a fact that was only discovered in 1894 by two scientist operating independently, the Frenchman Alexandre Yersin and the Japanese bacteriologist Kitasato Shibasaburo. In 1898 it was discovered that the main vector of transmission were fleas who moved between rodents and humans.

The effects of an infection with Yarsinia Pestis is devastating. There are three types of Plague the bacteria causes. The most famous is the Bubonic Plague that manifests in bubuoes, a swelling of the Lymph nodes mainly in the groin and the armpits.

But there are also the Pneumonic Plague and the Septicaemic Plague which have less obvious symptoms, which is why we hear of people dying literally mid-sentence. 30-60% of those affected by Bubonic Plague die if left untreated whilst 100% of those who catch Pneumonic or Septicaemic Plague do not make it. Fun fact about Pneumonic Plague, you do not need a flea for that. Simple inhalation of a respiratory droplet of a patient with Pneumonic Plague can result in infection and guaranteed death.

Today plague is less of a problem if identified early and treated with antibiotics, but in the 14th century nobody knew about the miraculous attributes of Penicillium Rubens and so the only effective way to manage the disease was quarantine. And even that often failed, as the vectors were fleas, not humans.

How many died is a subject of debate, which is unsurprising since there was no census of the population before and after. I get the impression that most calculation revert back to the contemporary estimate of 1/3rd of the population.

But the impact varied considerably between different places. Milan was less affected than Tuscany, though why that was is not obvious. More obvious is the fact that Communities that live in close proximity, in particular monasteries were very heavily affected. Often 80-90% of the brothers and sisters perished. On the other hand, the elites who had the ability to flee into the countryside, like the 7 young women and three young men in Bocaccio’s Decameron, appear to have had a mortality of only about a quarter.

For our friends, the Hanseatic League, good news was it took 3 years from the first reported cases in Messina in Sicily until the disease took hold in Scandinavia and another year to make it to Poland.

But when it came, it came with force. In 1350 the city Council of Bremen ordered to list the names of everyone who had died from the Plague and collected 6,966 names. Add to that an estimated 1,000 unknown corpses and assuming the city had about 12,000-15,000 inhabitants at the time, more than half fell victim to the disease. Hamburg reported the death of 12 out of its 34 bakers, 18 of its 40 butchers, 27 out of its 50 civil servants and a staggering 16 out of 21 members of its council. Similarly, Lübeck, Wismar, Reval and Lüneburg reported death rates of 30% and more amongst the members of their city councils.

To top of the horrors of the 14th century, the constant warfare, the spiritual disorientation and plague there was climate change. The great medieval warming period is coming to an end. Instead of a constant tailwind to its economic progress, Western Europe now has to deal with a consistent headwind that will peak in the little Ice Age between 1600 and 1800.

Food security was already on the edge before the cooling period started as we have seen when we looked at the great eastern migration from the population centres in Flanders, Holland and the Rhineland, but what we have now is a society that is constantly just one bad harvest away from wide-spread famine.

I guess we can conclude that the 14th century is a pretty bad time to be alive.

I was in France on Holiday this summer and on the way down we stopped in Beauvais, a city of 50,000 just north of Paris. The reason to stop in Beauvais is its absolutely heart stopping cathedral. It is Frances tallest cathedral with a Nave that rises 47m above the ground. To put that in context, Milan cathedral has a 45m high nave, Notre Dame in Paris rises 35 metres, Winchester a mere 24 metres. And even more astounding, the Nave of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome built centuries later also falls 1m short of this medieval skyscraper. But here is the rub, the church was never finished. The combined effects of plague and the 100 years war devastated the rich cloth industry of the town and there was never enough money to complete the edifice. Where the main part of the church should have been built stands the 10th century old cathedral looking positively tiny next to its ambitious intended replacement. Little illustrates so clearly both the immense economic growth during the so-called static Middle Ages and the abruptness with which it came to an end.

But hey, for once, we find ourselves on the lucky side of history. Sure, the citizens of the great Hanseatic cities did not escape the plague, bad weather, wars and the papal schism, but they did work through it a lot better than the beaten-up citizens of Beauvais.

The reason the Hanseatic cities got through the challenges of the 14th century are manyfold. The first one is that apart from losing some money on the crowns of Edward III, their involvement in the 100 year’s war was almost zero.

The same seems to have applied for the schism. The Empire and Scandinavia stuck largely with the Roman pope and hence there was less of the uncertainty that prevailed in the Western half of the continent where territories moved back and forth in their obedience and guidance about what to believe changed around all the time. I did try to find a reference to the schism in the secondary sources on the Hanse I am using and found a absolutely nothing.

Which gets us to the plague. Obviously, the fact that millions of customers had died, that their own cities had been depopulated and that many farms were running out of farmhands weren’t good bits of news.

But there were mitigating factors. Cities remained attractive, if only because they offered relief from servitude if you could hold out inside for a year. So many serfs and free peasants moved into the empty houses of the plague victims in the cities. We find that by the end of the 14th century the Hanseatic cities have regained their population size from the pre-plague times.

There was another, probably the only beneficial impact from the plague and that was a sustained shortage of labour, in particular farm labour and menial labour in cloth manufacturing and other manufacturing jobs. That meant the cost of labour increased significantly. There are various studies looking at data in England and France that suggest an increase in wages by somewhere between 30 and 50%, most of which was in real terms.

Daily wages in England by decade. Humphries & Weisdorf

That wage increase caused huge headaches for landowners who petitioned the local rulers to freeze wages. But even where that happened, such rules prove unenforceable since labourers simply scampered off. So real pay levels were going up, allegedly for the first and only time in premodern history.

That is good news for workers, but it is also great news for long distance traders, specifically for the Hanseatic Merchants.  Their main export products were food, in particular grain and fish. Before the plague only the cheaper grain was sold to labourers whilst the other goods went to burgers and the rich. After the plague, once these poor labourers had a few more pennies in their pockets, could they buy some fine Baltic Herring and wash it down with an even finer pint of Einbecker beer – best in the world.

And even for the luxury products, beeswax, pelts, Flemish cloth and wine, the market wasn’t seemingly so bad. The dramatic surge in religious devotion after the plague should have led to a surge in demand for the finest Beeswax from Novgorod to appease an apparently enraged deity.

And the rapid demise of many rich men and women caused a rapid redistribution of wealth. These newly minted millionaires were oh so well aware of the fragility of life. And since the plague came back in regular intervals many thought best thing to do was to spend it all as long as one is still alive.

It is in the middle of the 14th century that fashion in the true sense emerges. This is when we see proper tailoring for the first time. Until now most expensive dresses were essentially robes with straight seams and a lot of adornment. Now we see curved seams that allow the creation of tight-fitting trousers and shirts.

A French chronicler writes that around the year 1350, i.e., immediately after the first wave of the Plague, that quote “men, in particular, noblemen and their squires, took to wearing tunics so short and tight that they revealed what modesty bids us hide.” 

Hanseatic merchants did not only bring the cloth and the knowledge of how to create this new look to Scandinavia and Northern Germany, they also brought the fur needed to line the elegant coats worn over their Cotehardie, the body-hugging upper garment.

Finally, what really made the Hanseatic Merchants indispensable was in the times when things got tough. A bad harvest could easily tip the cities of Flanders, Northern France or England into outright famine. The hinterland of the Hanseatic cities, even though their production is likely to have declined due to labour shortage and the deteriorating climate, still produced a surplus above local demand. And that surplus became a lifeline during the regularly occurring outbreaks of famine.

Bottom line is that the 14th century was by no means a time of decline and desperation for the Hanseatic League. It was in fact the time when it reached the zenith of its power, wealth and influence. They turned a challenge into an opportunity to use my most cringeworthy management consulting speak.

All these smart ways to keep your head above water and avoid the pitfalls of the treacherous 14th century did however rarely feature in the histories of the Hanseatic League I read as a child.

What I found there were the heroic deeds of the men of Lübeck, Rostock and Wismar fighting a war at sea against the mighty king of Denmark, Waldemar Dawn. A lot of swords clinging and daring raids by gallant apprentices seemed a lot more exciting than the economics of grain.

And these things happened. But the way they came about say a lot about the way the merchant princes of the Hanse thought about war and how that so fundamentally differed from the way their royal and ducal neighbours perceived it.

The neighbours that matter most to the Hanseatic League were the power centres around the Baltic, foremost the Kingdom of Denmark, but also the strengthening kingdom of Sweden as well as that of Norway. And on the southern shore we have the Teutonic Knights, the dukes of Pomerania and of Mecklenburg, the margrave of Brandenburg and the counts of Holstein.

Though Denmark was nominally the largest, richest and most powerful of them, the century between 1241 to 1340 was one of decline and almost complete disintegration of the kingdom. The successors of the two great Waldemars, one called Abel and then various Eriks and Christophers, displayed a truly astounding level of infighting, murder, recklessness and incompetence.

Waldemar II’s eldest son king Erik IV Ploughpenny was murdered when he was a guest at his younger brother Abel’s house.

King Erik IV Ploughpenny

So, Abel became king but lasted only a year and a half before he was killed by a rebellious peasant who was reluctant to pay the increased taxation.

King Abel

The next brother King Christopher I lasted 7 years but spent most of it in conflict with his nephew, the son of Abel. King Christopher I died unexpectedly after taking Holy Communion. Rumours were that he had been poisoned by an abbot in retaliation for his oppression of the church.

Christopher I

Christopher I’s son was king Eric V, called Eric Klipping, so called because of his habit to devalue the currency by clipping off a piece of the silver. Eric Clipping who had spent most of his early life as a prisoner of the counts of Holstein and the Margraves of Brandenburg started his reign by being captured and imprisoned by own his nobles. He continued his father’s conflict with the church and many of his nobles which resulted in him being murdered in 1286.

Erik Klipping

Next up is King Eric VI called Menved whose first act was to avenge his father’s death. He convicted a number of senior Danish nobles to exile and expropriation for the crime. The problem was that at least some of them might have been innocent, but more importantly that he let them live. They moved across to Sweden where they initiated a 30 year long guerilla war against king Eric VI that came with a side dish of piracy.

Unperturbed by this conflict, gallant King Eric VI tried to revive the dream of the two Waldemars to build a Scandinavian empire under Danish rule. He combined this ambition with a propensity for lavish expenditure, in particular for tournaments. One of those he held in Rostock under the eyes of the worried citizens who feared – with good reason – that the chivalric pursuit could at any moment turn into a bloody siege of the town.

Erik Menved

All of king Eric’s great adventures consumed a truly epic amount of cash. Taxation had risen all throughout this troubled period and was merciless. When a famine struck in 1315. King Eric refused to lower the nominal amount of tax to be paid resulting in a peasant revolt that cost even more to suppress than the outstanding taxes.  And a lot of the equally costly conflict with the church stemmed from the desire of the kings to collect taxes from the clergy.

When king Eric VI finally died in 1319 the crown went to his brother Christopher II who inherited a kingdom that was financially and morally bankrupt. Not only had the nobles and the church used the weakness of the various kings to establish themselves as the true masters of the kingdom, the constant infighting had also sucked in a lot of foreigners looking to take advantage of the chaos. This chaos by the way did not just engulf Denmark. Sweden and Norway too were riven with infighting and continuous succession crises.

There seem to have been two approaches for foreigners seeking a juicy chunk of Scandinavian territory.

One was the classic model of marriage alliances. That came usually with a dowry that could include important castles and lands in exchange for military support. Given that both Sweden and Denmark were at least formally an elective monarchy where legitimacy could be transferred through the female line, these marriage alliances had the added benefit of occasionally producing a viable contender for one of the Scandinavian crowns.

The three families that pursued this strategy most persistently and successfully were the dukes of Mecklenburg and Pomerania and the Margraves of Brandenburg. Pretty much all of the kings of Denmark I mentioned were married to daughters of these three or to another Scandinavian monarch’s offspring. This intermarriage within a relatively small pool actually added to the mess as it produced a near infinite supply of contenders on all sides.

The other approach was taken by the counts of Holstein. Though they too married their daughters into the royal families and took wives from there, their main approach was to offer military and financial assistance on credit, credit that was secured by mortgages. And these aren’t mortgages just over some bits of land, these were mortgages over whole counties or even duchies. 

Two Holstein Counts were most astute in this game. One was Gerhard III of Holstein Rendsburg and the other James of Holstein-Ploen. Having inherited comparatively small territories that had come about when the old county of Holstein was divided up, these two men seem to have been some sort of war entrepreneurs.

An early form of the Italian Condottiere of the 15th century who could raise and then rent out entire armies. King Eric VI was the Holsteiner’s best customer. Always fighting one war or another and hosting lavish tournaments, he ended up mortgaging more and more of his kingdom to the two counts.

Gerhard ended up with all of Jutland and Funen, whilst James gained Zeeland and the southern isles. If you know Denmark, that is pretty much all of it.

Seal of Gerhard III

Well, apart from Scania which at the time was still Danish, but not for long. The Holstein counts and the Danish magnates were quite happy with this situation and when Christopher II ascended to the ramshackle throne his brother left him, they made him sign a coronation charter that basically forbade him to do anything without their consent.

Christopher tried his darnedest to disregard these provisions and rebuild some royal power. So, the magnates and the Germans ousted him in 1326, formally raising one of the. King’s nephews to the throne, but de facto reigning without a king. This magnate’s republic did not work out too well as they all began squabbling amongst themselves.

Even the two Holstein counts got into a disagreement. That weakened the Danish state even more so that the peasants of Scania asked the Swedish king to assume control over them. Scania as you know is the territory on the eastern shore of the Oresund where the annual herring market takes place, the largest market for fish in a Europe that ate fish 140 days a year and the most important contributor to the coffers of the Hanseatic merchants.

Which is why they now get involved. The Oresund and the herring market in Scania is of crucial importance for the long-distance trade out of the Baltic.

One reason is the sheer scale of the Herring business. The other is geography. By the 14th century there were two established routes by which the goods from the Baltic could be transported westward to the important markets in Bruges and London. One was the land route via Lübeck and Hamburg. The other was to sail around Jutland which meant going through the Oresund. Keeping those lines open, safe and importantly avoiding high tariffs for the transit were of vital importance to the Hanse.

The way they achieved this so far had been through diplomacy. The Burgermeisters or mayors of the great Hanseatic cities as well as the other senior members of the city councils were experienced long distance traders. One of the skills they needed to get where they got to was negotiation. Knowing exactly what combination of price and conditions the other side could agree to was their second nature. They appreciated the importance of having more reliable and timely information than their adversaries and were able to think calmly through complex problems. Hence the time of the disintegration of the Scandinavian kingdoms was a walk in the park for the Hansards. They could play any side against any other in this game of three-dimensional chess and always walk away with improved trading privileges, lower taxes and promises of safe passage, be it from kings or from pirates or from kings that had become pirates or pirates that became kings.

The diplomatic effort was always underpinned with the threat of boycotts and embargoes. Whoever failed to respond to the softly, softly approach could suddenly find himself cut off from grain supply or unable to sell their goods into the European market.

And as a means of last resort, the Hanse was prepared to go to war. But only ever as a means of last resort. That is not out of cowardice. These men are used to dangerous journeys and the need to defend your goods and rights with the sword. They simply believed that war was rarely a profitable undertaking.

As the legendary Lübeck Bürgermeister Hinrich Castrop put it: “it is always easier to hoist the banner of war but a lot more costly taking it down in honour”

Lübeck did go to war when they supported the German princes against Waldemar II in the battle of Bornhoeved, and they helped king Abel to get on the throne by providing soldiers. But this was always based on a cold and level-headed calculation of the odds of success. None of the “For the Honour of the Kingdom once more into the breach” nonsense their aristocratic neighbours engaged in.

The other cases when the cities went to war was to defend themselves against the territorial princes. During the time of King Eric VI expensive war efforts in Northern Germany his allies tried to subdue the cities of Rostock and Wismar by siege. These sieges ended regularly with truces under which the burgers would pay off the city lord and swear allegiance. But nothing really changed and when King Eric’s money ran out the cities reverted back to the status quo ante.

So, everything is alright as far as the Hansards are concerned until the 1330s. After the debacle in Scania King Christopher II makes a comeback. The magnates and the Germans decide they need a unifying figure for the state and call him back to the throne. Christopher tries again to be a real king and exploits the divisions between the two Holstein counts.

He gets defeated in 1331. In the post-war settlement he is allowed to retain the title of king but without any power. He ends his days in a small house on Lolland to live in, lonely and forgotten. In 1332 he died a broken man.

After that Denmark has no king. Christopher II’s older sons, Eric and Otto die around the same time from wounds received in battle against the Holsteins. So, Count Gerhard of Holstein-Rendsburg becomes the de-facto ruler of Denmark.

That is a situation the Hanse is becoming uncomfortable with. Gerhard III still controlled one shore of the Oresund as well as the territory through which the wares moved between Luebeck and Hamburg. He was at least theoretically able to cut off both of the major trade routes out of the Baltic.

The two cities of Hamburg and Lubeck are trying to keep things on an even keel and agree to maintain the peace with the mighty count. But secretly they are trying to undermine his position. They host Gerhard’s enemies inside Luebeck where they are looking for ways to topple the Holsteiners and rebuild the Danish kingdom.

It seems that count Gerhard had realised that his situation was ultimately untenable. The cost of suppressing the regular uprisings against his rule exceeded the income from Jutland and Funen. Then there is a third son of king Christopher called Waldemar. This Waldemar had secured the support of his relatives, the margraves of Brandenburg for his bid to return the dynasty which gave the rebellion a focal point.

Count Gerhard was a war entrepreneur and not an aristocratic Hurrah Henry. He realised that the game was up and entered into negotiations trading the restoration of the Danish Monarchy against a permanent cessation of Schleswig to the Holsteins. Before these negotiations were concluded, count Gerhard of Holstein, ruler of Denmark was killed by insurgents.

That paved the way for one of medieval Denmark’s political geniuses, the aforementioned Waldemar, younger son of king Christopher II to be elected by the Danehof, the Danish parliament as king Waldemar V.

Waldemar V “Atterdag”

Nobody expected much from the 20-year old who had lived in exile at the imperial court for most of his childhood and adolescence. He was considered so insignificant that the magnates did not even bother asking him to sign a coronation charter.

But he managed to slowly but steadily rebuild the Danish monarchy. He looked after the pennies and when he had enough, he paid off the mortgages his father had taken over Jutland and then Seeland. As his power grew, he could use not just carrot but also stick, forcing the bishop of Roskilde to hand over the castle of Copenhagen where he established his new headquarters. Copenhagen was an excellent base to impose tariffs on the shipping that passed the Oresund.

He sold Estonia to the Teutonic knights, raising more money to pay off more mortgages. Gradually the last Holstein positions on Zealand and Funen fell, until only southern Schleswig remained in their hands.

In 1354 Waldemar IV, by now called Waldemar Dawn, the man who brought a new day to the kingdom of Denmark gathered all the nobles and made them sign a charter whereby they gave up all the rights they had amassed since the time of King Christopher II. Denmark was back in the game.

In 1360 he used a succession crisis in Sweden to take back Scania. To secure his flank against a Swedish counterattack Waldemar dawn took his army to Gotland and took Visby.

Visby, a member of the Hanseatic League, still an important city that had played a crucial role in its early history. That is the point where the Hanseatic League cannot take it any longer.

They had initially welcomed the rise of Waldemar Dawn as a counterweight to the Holsteiners. And when his position became stronger and stronger, they tried to negotiate with him. In particular they needed him to lower the tariffs through the Oresund, where he by now had built several castles including the mighty Helsingborg.

But this was one of those situations that had no diplomatic solution. King Waldemar needed the tax income from the Oresund to fund his rebuilding of the Danish state. There was no similar source of wealth in the kingdom than this apart from the Herring market in Falsterbo he now controlled and taxed as well.  

On the other side, the Hanseatic League could not accept free Danish control of the Oresund that would allow Dutch and English merchants to enter and trade on the same conditions in Falsterbo and even across the Baltic.

By now the Hanseatic League had turned from an association of merchants to an association of cities. There was not much difference between the two models since most Hanseatic cities were pure trading cities where the other guilds were of secondary importance.

But it still marked a change when the Hanseatic cities came together for their first Hansetag, their first official gathering in 1356, then to debate the sanctions against the city of Bruges we talked about in the episode about Bergen and Bruges.

The next one was in 1360 where the Wendisch cities, Luebeck, Wismar and Rostock decided to take on Waldemar. They formed an alliance with Waldemar’s enemies, the Holsteiners, King Magnus of Sweden, his son King Haakon of Norway as well as the Teutonic Knights.

A fleet was to sail out of Luebeck in the spring 1362 towards the Oresund. There they were to meet up with Swedish troops and take one of the mighty new fortresses Waldemar had built to control most valuable source of income.

The man who led the expedition was Johann Wittenberg, the Bürgermeister of Lübeck. Six months later half the ships will have sunk to the bottom of the sea and Johann Wittenberg will lose his head.

How this first major war of the Hanseatic League could go so badly wrong is subject of next week’s episode. That is when we get properly into the clanging of swords and the ramming of ships. I hope you will join us again.

Before I go, let me thank all of you who are supporting the show, in particular the Patrons who have kindly signed up on patreon.com/historyofthegermans. It is thanks to you this show does not have to do advertising for products you do not want to hear about. If Patreon isn’t for you, another way to help the show is sharing the podcast directly or boosting its recognition on social media. If you share, comment or retweet a post from the History of the Germans it is more likely to be seen by others, hence bringing in more listeners. My most active places are Twitter @germanshistory and my Facebook page History of the Germans Podcast. As always, all the links are in the show notes.    

And just to remind you, the sub-podcast The Hanseatic League is still running. So if you want to point a friend or relative towards the History of the Germans but want to avoid confusion, just send them there. The Hanseatic League is available everywhere you can get the History of the Germans.

And last but not least the bibliography. For this episode I again relied heavily on:

Erich Hoffmann: Konflikte und Ausgleich mit den Scandinavischen Reichen in Die Hanse, Lebenswirklichkeit und Mythos, herausgegeben von Jürgen Bracker, Volker Henn and Rainer Postel

Philippe Dollinger: Die Hanse

Rolf Hammel-Kieslow: Die Hanse