Hanseatic League

The first trade union; it was established in the twelfth century by certain cities of Northern Germany for their mutual prosperity and protection. The diet which used to be held every three years was called the Hansa, and the members of it Hansards. The league in its prosperity comprised eighty-five towns; it declined rapidly in the Thirty Years' War; in 1669 only six cities were represented; and the last three members of the league (Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen) joined the German Customs Unions' in 1889.

(German, am-see, on the sea; and the league was originally called the Am-sec-staaten, free cities on the sea.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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