Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Draft Press Release for a coming book on the Hanseatic League"

DRAFT Press Release
(May 2012)

Salt, wine and a safe port,
made La Rochelle into a familiar destination for North Europeans

The publishers, le Croît vif are pleased to announce the release of the book, “La Rochelle - In the Footsteps of the Hanseatic League”, by Thomas Brosset, and Maggie Cole, author of the English text.  Historical events, such as, The Siege of La Rochelle, the story of the Four Sergeants, trade with the New World in the 18th century, and with Africa in the early 20th century, are all steeped in the fabric of the city. Less well-known and frankly forgotten, is its membership in the medieval Hanseatic League – Europe’s first common market. Nevertheless, this chapter of “Rochelaise” history contributes to its essence. This independent city, liberal and rebellious, became famed within its region as a symbol of prosperity stemming from its commercial talent.

In the 11th century, at a time when the roads were swollen by numerous pilgrims, the market places were magnets, enlivened with various entertainers to attract the public -  bartering, buying and selling ever more exotic products. Gradually, across Europe, associations, confederations, guilds and brotherhoods were formed in order to regulate, harmonize and secure this trade, especially that carried by sea.  The most powerful of these trade organisations was created in 1241, and was called the Hanseatic League.  Bruges, London, Bergen, Lübeck, Novgorod, and later La Rochelle belonged to this forerunner of a common market. Set in a bygone era where legality was uncertain, these cities formed a confederation of merchants offering trade privileges and safe conduct between their members.

La Rochelle is the most southerly and furthest from the centre, which lay in North Europe, around the Baltic Sea in a crescent from the Baltic countries to Germany and Holland. Situated somewhat off the beaten track relative to the main Bruges – Novgorod circuit, La Rochelle, Brouage and the Bay of Bourgneuf, nevertheless played a significant role in the organisation. Although the Salt Route is not as well known as that of Silk, this route, laid the groundwork for international trade. Centuries earlier, Vikings from Northern Europe had used the shipping lanes from the Baltic, via the North Sea and the English Channel, and sailed down the Atlantic seaboard in search of salt for food preservation. But they also came to find wine. These two commodities were the basis of La Rochelle’s commercial relationship with the Hansa cities.

Home to privateers, pirates, protestant defenders, and resistance members during the Nazi Occupation, La Rochelle has through the centuries shown a boldness that has shaped the proud and independent character of the city. This rebellious spirit and determination has allowed the city to shine worldwide by initiating new forms of international trade. Its undeniable dynamism today translates into the success of its international marina.

Far from claiming to tell the long history of the Hanseatic League – which others have done before – this book serves primarily as an incentive to travel from city to city in the footsteps of the Hansa.  Starting in La Rochelle, the most distant and southern-most, the less marked in stone by Hanseatic trade, and perhaps the most often forgotten, Thomas Brosset takes his readers on a rich and historical journey, up to the Norwegian fjords to the Baltic shores, passing through the canals in Bruges, the City of London, to Lubeck’s cellars, to Bergen’s multi-coloured quay-side houses, and to bewitching Novgorod, the gateway to Asia. 

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The book should be available shortlyand it will be possible to order copies via this blog, more information, flyers etc., will be available this weekend.


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