Lübeck's history and power are closely connected with the leading position of the Hansa. Originally the Hansa ('hansa' is the old german word for a 'valiant band or group') was a union of north German merchants which, in the middle of the 14th century, was converted into a League of Cities. The Hansa protected its members in foreign countries, defended their trading interests against foreign rulers, secured commercial privileges and judged differences and quarrels between its members by an own jurisdiction, which was exercised by the oldest amongst them, the so called Eldermen.

During its most brilliant period approximately 200 seaports and towns were members of the Hansa. Its influence reached from the Zuyder Zee to the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Sea and Thuringia. No other league of cities ever reached, not even approximately, the power and extension of the Hansa.

Although the Hansa had been founded to promote the trade, in the course of history the Hansa reached such political power in northern Europe, that it was even successfully waging wars. As climax of power can be considered the war which 77 Hansa cities carried on with Waldemar IV of Denmark from 1368 to 1370. First of all these wars served the purpose to carry out economical aims.

The birth of the Hansa is connected with the date on which in 1159 the Saxonian Duke "Heinrich der Löwe"('Henry the Lion') refounded Lübeck. The origin of the Hansa was the company of German merchants visiting Gotland. Members of the 'Gotland Sailors' were not only merchants from Lübeck but also from Westphalian and Saxon cities. Step by step merchants from the newly founded towns at the Slavonic coast of the Baltic Sea became members of the Hansa. Further stages were the establishment of a German merchants' colony in Novgorod at the end of the 12th century and the first contract between Lübeck and Hamburg agreed upon in 1230.

Lübeck, Western Europes gate to the trade of the Baltic Sea, Scandinavia and Baltic Provinces, developed very quickly and became the head of the Hansa. It maintained this leading position until the end of the Hansa.

These trading stations illustrate the geographical frame whithin which the Hansa merchants almost had a commercial monopoly since the middle of the 13th century. In the 14th century the Hanseatic trade expanded to southern Germany and Italy, to France, Spain and Portugal. Resistance against this Hanseatic trade monopoly was successfully offered by the Dutch and South Germans since the middle of the 14th century.

In order to defend the new territorial states, the Hansa of the merchants was converted (the year in which the first Hanseatic day took place in Lübeck) into a Hansa of cities in 1356.

This league of cities reached its peak of power at the time of the Peace Treaty of Stralsund (1370). During the following centuries the strength and power of the Hansa decreased since this form of alliance could not compete with the modern states and their modern trading.

In 1630 Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen formed a closer allience, especially in financial affairs. A last Hanseatic day took place in Lübeck in 1669, but this could not cause a revival of the Hansa. The alliance between Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg was in power until 1937 when Lübeck lost its independence after a proclamation of the national-socialistical regime.

The first Hanseatic day of modern times was initiated by the dutch city Zwolle in 1980. The third of these meetings took place again in the former queen of the Hansa, in Lübeck.