Trade and Commerce in the Baltic Sea


The Hanseatic League established by German mercantile communities based in North German cities and abroad controlled trade & commerce in the region surrounding Baltic Sea. The influence of the Hanseatic League or Hansa as far as commercial activities in the Baltic maritime zone was concerned, peaked during the 14th century when the Nauvo shipwreck occurred. The league held complete sway over the trading where goods like seed rye, fur, meat, hides, butter, dried fish, and tar were exported. Wines, metal goods, clothes, and salt were the chief items of import.

However, there is concrete evidence to corroborate that commerce in the Baltic Sea happened during the 10th and 11th centuries. Lubeck was the chief trading town of the Hanseatic League during the middle ages. The Swedish king Magnus Eriksson probably in 1350 prohibited Finns from trading anywhere in the region except Stockholm. However, inhabitants of Uusimaa and Turku were allowed to ply their trade in the Baltic towns. Owing to the king’s stricture, merchants hailing from Lubeck were hardly witnessed in Finnish coastal towns even though they dominated trade.

On the basis of archaeological relics, it can be inferred that the principal trading route during the 14th cent from the Northern Germanic towns of the Hanseatic league to Finland passed through Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Turku traders proceeded to Tallinn with the sole objective of carrying out transactions with businessmen belonging to the league who in turn were scheduled to head eastwards and westwards. Hogholmen Island belonging to Sweden was an important loading and offloading port for the Turku traders. Stockholm, the present day capital of Sweden was also a significant transit point for the merchants. Seaborne trade based around the Baltic largely consisted of exchanging foodstuffs, minerals, and raw materials with homegrown industrial produce.



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