Initially, the Hanze was a co-operation between merchants from various cities, which arose in the thirtheenth century in Germany. This group would get legal protection and trade priviliges from the countries. There was in fact a kind of common European market where certain trade-agreements applied. Gradually the cooperation evolved to a organisation of cities. Although a list of members doesn't exist, there are documents that prove that some Dutch cities were in fact member. ( Kampen,Deventer, Zutphen, Harderwijk etc. ) It would happen frequently that the Hanze cities had conflicting interests, but the disputes were almost always settled peacefully by means of a explicit accepted arbitration.

In second half of the fifteenth century, the Hanze came more and more in conflict with the growing tendency towards national and regional care of interests. It was clear that the conservative and protectionistic trade system of the Hanze could not maintain itself. Trade shifted to the Dutch and Zealand cities and the Hanze lost its hegemony, as most of its members lost their importance.