Research on Valmiera during the Hanseatic period has been published

29.05.2017

Research carried out by historian Ilgvars Misāns on the Hanseatic League is an important contribution to a better understanding of the history of Valmiera. It looks at the Hanseatic League not only as a political subject, but also highlights its social and economic contribution.

Research “Valmiera in the historical Hanseatic League: exploring its heritage” offers an alternative look from the traditional perception of Hansa as an influential confederation of German cities, dominating the maritime trade in the Baltic and North Sea region. „Contemporary literature on Hansa concentrates not that much on Hansa as a union of cities, instead focusing on merchants and their economic interests. If viewed this way, we can say Hansa united merchants living in cities, not cities themselves. Those were merchants who established the Hanseatic League by joining forces to protect their economic interests and privileges. Therefore, Hansa should be analysed not so much as a union of cities, but more likely as a union of merchants or persons,” explains Iveta Blūma, director of the Valmiera Museum.

            This research shows that the Hanseatic League didn’t have unitary characteristics – it didn’t have a formal uniting agreement, nor a legal framework or strict membership rules. „Word „union”, as we understand it, doesn’t properly describe Hansa. Words such as „organization”, „interest group” or simply „group” are better suitable when it comes to describing Hansa. Though, Hansa had a European level dimension. Although Lower German merchants had the biggest say in it, they managed to create a network which from 12th to 15th century united merchants from 200 cities stretching from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea and included several central European inland cities. 

            "Geographically Hanseatic region must be viewed as a space from the Eastern part of the Netherlands to Stockholm in Scandinavia, Dorpat in Estonia and Krakow in Poland. And Valmiera also had its place within.” Research focused on the castle of Valmiera, revealing its military, administrative, economic and social functions. Everyday life in a medieval town, shaped by craftsmen and merchants, is analysed. The description allows us to imagine how the town was governed, what kind of clothes did people wear, what their eating and drinking habits were and how people used to celebrate from 12th to 16th century.

            "Medieval Valmiera was a typical example of a Livonian town, which starting from the 14th century was connected to the Hanseatic trading system. Long-distance merchants worked here and together with other Hanseatic cities it was indirectly involved in the everyday life of the Hansa. During the medieval times Valmiera’s economic potential was insignificant, its interactions with the „big politics” was episodic. Nevertheless, as Ilgvars Misāns points out, the medieval and Hanseatic times was the only period, when Valmiera managed to overcome its limited regional influence and get involved in broader political processes both within Livonia and beyond its borders.

 

            Author of the research prof. Ilgvars Misāns is an acknowledged historian and has published several articles and books on history of the Hanseatic League. He is a professor at the University of Latvia.

            This research was carried out within the framework of the project “Hanseatic Approach to New Sustainable Alliances” co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund Central Baltic Programme 2014-2020.

More information:

Inger Harlevi, Project manager, “Inspiration Gotland”, e-mail: [email protected]