The Hanseatic League played a part in shaping economy, trade and politics for more than 400 years until it lost its importance in the middle of the 17th century. In the Middle Ages and in the early modern period, no other group reached even the slightest influence or expansion like the Hanseatic League. The Hanseatic League offered its members protection abroad, represented its trade interests vis-à-vis foreign governments, granted its members trade privileges and arbitrated disputes of its members in branches abroad by its own court.
The union of cities, which had no statutes, no seals and no treasury was only bound by the irregular Hanseatic days (mostly in Lübeck). It achieved reached its greatest force at the time of the Peace of Stralsund (1370) after the victory over Denmark.
From the 13th to the middle of the 15th century, the Hanseatic League extensively dominated the long-distance trade of northern Europe. Thus, the Hanseatic distance traders gained an economic sphere of influence that in the 16th century extended from Portugal to Russia and from the Scandinavian countries to Italy, a territory that today includes 20 European countries. The Hanseatic merchants supplied Western and Central Europe with luxury goods, food and raw materials from Northern and Eastern Europe. The Hanseatic counters in Novgorod (northwest Russia), Bergen (Norway), Bruges (Flanders) and London (England) were the main reloading points for this trade.