University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XVI: The German Crusade on the Baltic,   pp. 545-585 PDF (16.2 MB)

Page 579

 The chief cities of Prussia and Livonia were members of the Hanse, and as
such enjoyed its privileges in northern and western Europe, carrying western
goods not only to Prussia and Livonia, but to Silesia, Poland, Bohemia, Hungary,
Lithuania, and Russia, and carry ing from these through the Baltic ports
to the west the raw materials, timber, timber products, and furs of these
countries. The order, itself treated as a virtual member of the Hanse, was
a major source of its security, but as the sovereign of the Prussian and
Livonian Hanse cities it often found itself at odds with them. This position
became more delicate when, on the authority of a falsified papal privilege,
the order itself engaged in trade on its own behalf, and therefore in competition
with its own towns and other members of the League. This trade was centered
in the Gross-Schafferei in Marienburg and Königsberg, the former specializing
in the export of grain and the latter managing the order's monopoly in amber.
The order carried on its large and lucrative trade through an extensive organization
within and without Prussia. Such a practice, however, caused fundamental
discontent on the part of the Prussian and Livonian towns which found themselves
discriminated against by their own rulers, the order, on behalf of the latter's
trade. The grain from the order's depots could by exception go to the west
when that of the towns could not. Indeed, the order went so far as to take
over for itself the income (Pfundzoll) collected by the towns to pay for
their participa tion in the Scandinavian wars of the Hanseatic League. Not
only did the order use its grain surplus (in part the payment of its native
and German subjects) to engage in an extensive and forbidden trade, but it
employed its monetary surplus (in part the taxes of its subjects) in banking
operations and the purchase of rents. 
 Like many another important Englishman and European of his day, Chaucer's
"parfit gentil Knyght. . . hadde reysed in Lettow" as well as in "Pruce"
and "Ruce." By the end of the thirteenth century the completed conquest of
Prussia, Kurland, and Zemgalia brought the Knights into direct contact with
the last remaining pagans in this area, the Lithuanian tribes of Samogitia
and the Lithuanians them selves. If the two branches of the order were to
be able to cooperate with each other effectively inside Prussia and Livonia
or against Lithuania, it was necessary that the Samogitian gap between Prussia
and Livonia be closed. This the order was never able to do for any long period
and indeed never tried very seriously to do. It preferred to keep this pagan
neighbor as some justification for its existence as a crusading order and
to expand against Christian neighbors (eastern Pomerania, Werder, Danish
Estonia, Gotland, Neumark). After a 

Go up to Top of Page