Saturday, December 24, 2011

German trading practices from the Hanseatic League.

I have selected a quote from a book written in 1889, long before the two world wars and during a period of great pro-German feeling in Victorian Britain. (As proof see W.T. Stead's Europa, 1899 link here). In so doing I hope that this account of what occurred in Bergen over hundreds of years will not be put down to war induced jingoism. Significantly the Norwegians have sensibly remained out of the EU since the people overturned the entry terms negoiated by their leaders!

The book titled "The Hansa Towns" was written by Helen Zimmern, first published 1889 by T. Fisher Unwin, London and republished by Elibron Classics 2005 Paperback version ISBN 1-4021-8483-2. I am quoting from Chapter IV on page 137:

Their purpose, simple enough in conception, was carried out with a disregard of other claims than their own, and often a violence which made them encounter resistance, and which in the end was largely the cause of their fall.

The political agitations and confusions which disturbed the Scandinavian kingdoms early in the fifteenth century were astutely utilised by the Hanseatics, who, having their settlements at Bergen and Scania, were able to keep out the Dutch and the English, then just attempting to begin a rivalry with them in the northern trade. The Dutch were easily disheartened. Not so the English; and we read of instances in which the Hanseatics and English acted towards one another with a savagery which proves that commercial rivalry can excite hearts as bitterly and furiously as poltical or religious fanaticism.

No matter at what cost, monopoly the Germans were resolved to have, and they succeeded in forcing the kings of Denmark to place an interdict on English trading. This prohibition corresponded to another that they had extorted according to which all merchandise coming from the extreme end of the Norwegian kingdom was obliged to pass through Bergen. The purpose of the latter regulation was to concentrate all the productions of the country at a single point; thus offering to the Hanseatics the first refusal of goods, and a power of dominating the market.

Indeed nowhere did their imperious and self-seeking policy show itself in a less amiable light than in the dealings of the Hansa with the poor inhabitants of Norway's sterile coasts. The history of their factory at Bergen is from its earliest foundation the history of a relentless despotism, disfigured by violence and breach of faith in treaties.

There is of course more, much more, too much so for quotation here. Further reading online is possible from another source online, pages 237 to 243 linked here.

What we should learn from this history should be obvious. So mis-educated and confused are the leaders of our political parties, however, that I am not yet sure that even now they have seen it! Even after what has happened to Greece over two long years, the fate of its democratic government; Portugal, the broken people of Ireland and now the removed elected Government of Italy. It follows a pattern, if European countries with their land borders refuse to see it, we in Britain should, buy the book I have quoted above, read the difficulties we had in removing the Germans from the site where Cannon Street station now stands, read the draft treaty prepared after the 8th/9th December EU Council meeting, linked here, consider this passage, repeated from above "... breach of faith in treaties"!

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