Die zeitgenössische Perzeption des Niedergangs der Hansekontore in den 'Hanseatica' (1674) des Danziger Syndikus Wenzel Mittendorp


  • Magnus Ressel




The Decay of the Hanseatic Kontors in the „Hanseatica“ (1674)
of the Danzig Syndic Wenzel Mittendorp
In the second half of the seventeenth Century, no one could dispute the decay of the Hanse. Yet the ultimate dissolution of this once famous and powerful alliance of cities and towns was not inevitable. Influential politicians in the principal Hanse towns and cities endeavored valiantly throughout the seventeenth Century to keep the league’s members together. One of these pro-Hanse politicians was the Danzig Syndic Wenzel Mittendorp, a Senator who had been active in the city for the better part of the first half of the seventeenth Century. Around mid-century he wrote a manuscript of roughly 1000 pages, the „Hanseatica“ (,Hanseatic affairs'), intended as a monument to his decades of service as a Hanse politician and containing his principal thoughts, ideas and arguments on and for the league. The manuscript is a unique source for historians since it gives us a detailed view on the perception of the forces of decay in the league. Moreover, since it is principally a historical account of the league, the manuscript can be judged to have been one of the first scholarly attempts to provide a coherent narrative of the league and thus to instill a sense of tradition into its readers. Regarding matters from the perspective of midseventeenth Century Danzig, Mittendorp looked mostly at the Kontors and identified their tribulations as the root of the crisis of the Hanse. Originally based on the economic success of the Kontors, the league was now decaying parallel to their decline. Mittendorp’s contribution was addressed to his fellow politicians in Danzig, in whom he wanted to inculcate a conviction of the value of continuing active membership in the Hanse; regardless of the problems of the Kontors. Tradition and advantages beyond the mere commercial constituted his principal arguments in favor of Danzig’s continuing membership in the Hanse. Notwithstanding his ultimate failure to achieve this goal, Mittendorp’s arguments give us an illuminating insight into the self-perception of the Hanse at one of its formerly principal centers at a time when the fundamental questions on the continuation or dissolution of the league forced its adherents to bring their most compelling arguments to the fore. The result was the „Hanseatica“, a unique source for any historian interested in the political mindset of Hanse politicians in the decades preceding the end of the league.