The word "Hansa" originally designated a group of merchants, and from the 13th century it began to denote a powerful alliance between the cities of Northern Germany and the cities that emerged in German-colonized lands. In the XII-XIII centuries. In northern Europe, for the first time in its history, strong trade ties arose within a vast region: from England to Russian lands and Finland.
The first merchant guilds appeared already in the 12th century. By the 14th century. in Germany they reached their peak. They skillfully used the advantageous position of Germany on trade routes, and such cities as Mainz, Cologne, Lübeck developed mainly through trade.
The Hansa was a monopoly intermediary between the producing regions of the Northern, Western, Eastern and partly Central Europe: England, Flanders and Northern Germany supplied cloth, England, Central Europe and Scandinavia - metals, Northern Germany and the West coast of France - salt, Eastern Europe - furs and wax .
The Hansa represented an alliance of merchant families, connected by family ties and personal relationships.
The weakness of the organizational structure was at the same time the strength of the Hansa, which easily adapted to different conditions in different trading zones.
The 15th century was the heyday of the Hansa. In the north of Europe, new cities emerged, quickly becoming centers of culture and commerce. Here roads were built, channels were built. Trade rules were established, new systems of measures and weights were created.