How much money did medieval gentlemen make

Goods and markets

Politics and Infrastructure

Raw materials such as wood and stone, clothing such as furs and hides, leather and cloth, food such as fish, meat, spirits, spices and salt were loaded ("transhipped") at the trading posts. Handcrafted consumer goods made of iron, ceramics and glass were also part of the international trade.

The Hanseatic League became the most powerful trade association in medieval Europe, bringing about major changes not only financially, but also culturally, politically and socially.

The Hanseatic League revolutionized transport. Never before have such enormous quantities of goods been moved. For this, the appropriate infrastructure first had to be created: land and water transport routes were built.

The Hanseatic League created the first trunk road network in Europe. Ports were laid out and fortified. Trade interests were clearly intertwined between Lübeck and Hamburg: the Elbe and Trave were connected by a canal in the 14th century.

New laws and regulations were created. In order to make trade as smooth as possible, legal certainty had to be guaranteed for the Hansa members.

The wealthy Hanseatic cities did not even shy away from wars: either against pirates, who had become a real nuisance, or, in exceptional cases, against states. In April 1362 the Hanseatic cities sailed against Denmark with an armada of 52 warships. However, they did not return victorious from this war.

Raw materials against cultural goods

With the increased movement of goods, a new consumer behavior began. Suddenly, products from the Mediterranean countries could also be purchased in northeastern Europe, while urgently needed raw materials from the north and east were made available to the south.

In England merchants bought sheep's wool, which they exchanged for skins and wax. They imported furs, oil, wood, wax and amber from Novgorod, Russia, and dried cod from Bergen, Norway. Beer, wine, flour, fruit, iron goods and cloth were exchanged for hides, tallow, wood and tar.

Huge schools of herring romped about in the shallow southern Swedish coastal waters near Skåne. There the Hanseatic League had the monopoly on catching the fish, which were a coveted fasting food all over Europe. If the herrings were pickled in salt and packed in barrels, the merchants organized the sale from Skåne and supplied the entire continent.

The famous Venetian glass was imported from Venice. Metal goods, ceramics and butter came from Flanders, but above all the precious Flemish cloths. In addition to new exotic goods, the traveling merchants from foreign countries also brought many new impressions into the culture and politics of their homeland - impulses that still play an important role in the self-image of the cosmopolitan Hanseatic people.

Risks and Profits

Merchants were only strong if they worked together to defy the forces of nature and political upheavals. The traveling merchants often took great risks. It cost a fortune to buy goods abroad on a large scale, to prepare and equip cogs, and to organize transport. Because the traveling traders were exposed to numerous dangers.

The valuable freight could easily be lost in storms, and the herring would rot if transported too long. Cloth from Flanders could get worm-eaten and spoil valuable salt and spice loads from moisture. In rough seas there was a risk of capsizing, pirates and highwaymen often stole goods and money.

While some merchants made immeasurable wealth through their lucrative businesses, many a rich merchant also lost all of his fortune if his bills didn't work out or if business failed.