Traders, ties and tensions : the interactions of Lübeckers, Overijsslers and Hollanders in Late Medieval Bergen
By Justyna Joanna Wubs-Mrozewicz
PhD Dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2008
Introduction: The situation at the Hanseatic Kontor in Bergen in 1469 was tense to say the least. Merchants from Kampen in Overijssel, who were members of this particular Hanseatic settlement in Norway, were furious about the unfair treatment they had received there a year earlier. Not only had the Kontor alderman and his assistants hindered the Overijsslers from conducting their business, excluded them from the common table, and forced them to pay a stiff fine, but the authorities had also publicly humiliated them. Stripped to their underwear, the traders had had to beg the assembled Kontor merchants for mercy, all because of their alleged illegal trading practices with Hollanders.
This confrontation brings to the fore the three main groups of merchants that are the subject of this study, namely:
- the dominant group at the Bergen Kontor, the Lübeckers, who occupied the posts of alderman and assistants;
- the indignant Overijssel traders from Kampen, later joined in their pursuit of justice by burghers from Deventer and Zwolle, by then all members of the Hanseatic League and the Kontor;
- and last but not least, the tacit party in this conflict, that is the Hollanders – in the Bergen context primarily Amsterdammers – who at no time were members of the Bergen Kontor.
The incident also illustrates the dynamics of the mercantile relationships which will be analysed in this study. First there were the Hanseatic and Kontor ties between Lübeckers and Overijsslers, which laid the foundations for their co-existence and cooperation but failed to prevent internal tensions. And second, there were the tensions between the Hanseatic Kontor and traders from Holland, particularly from Amsterdam, which sprang from potential and actual rivalry. To complicate matters, some members of the Kontor chose to cooperate with the Hollanders anyway, establishing ties outside the Kontor and the Hanse.