The Hanseatic League (also known as the Hanse) was an economic alliance of trading cities and their guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe in the late Middle Ages.
It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the late Middle Ages and early modern period (ca 13th-17th centuries).
The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own protection and mutual aid, and thus established a sort of political autonomy and in some cases created political entities of their own.
This economic union, an alliance of German Traders dominated the trade between Nowgorod and Bruges, between Stockholm and Cologne, between Lübeck and London. At peak times (mid 12th - mid 17th century) it consisted of nearly 300 Port and Hinterland Cities in Northern Europe.
The goal was to secure the international sea voyages and represent united commercial interests abroad. The capital city within the Hanseatic League was Lübeck. A major development took place through the introduction of the Kogge, a small and very agile cargo ocean vessel which became the symbol for the Hanse.