Show Less
Open access

Institutions of Hanseatic Trade

Studies on the Political Economy of a Medieval Network Organisation

Ulf Christian Ewert and Stephan Selzer

The merchants of the medieval Hanse monopolised trade in the Baltic and North Sea areas. The authors describe the structure of their trade system in terms of network organisation and attempts to explain, on the grounds of institutional economics, the coordination of the merchants’ commercial exchange by reputation, trust and culture. The institutional economics approach also allows for a comprehensive analysis of coordination problems arising between merchants, towns and the ‘Kontore’. Due to the simplicity and flexibility of network trade the Hansards could bridge the huge gap in economic development between the West and the East. In the changing economic conditions around 1500, however, exactly these characteristics proved to be a serious limit to further retain their trade monopoly.


Ulf Christian Ewert is a Research Associate at the Cluster of Excellence ‘Religion and Politics’ and lecturer in economic history at the University of Münster. He has taught medieval and economic history at Chemnitz University of Technology, Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg, Free University of Berlin and the universities of Munich, Halle and Regensburg. He published numerous articles on the Hanse, the Portuguese overseas expansion, the political economy of pre-modern princely courts and on early-modern living standards.

Stephan Selzer is Professor for medieval history at Helmut-Schmidt-University / University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg. He is the author of numerous publications on the social and economic history of the later Middle Ages as well as specialist literature on the medieval Hanseatic League and the communication and mobility of the Hanse area.