Bremen Piracy and Scottish Periphery: The North Sea World in the 1440s

Medieval piratesBremen Piracy and Scottish Periphery: The North Sea World in the 1440s

David Ditchburn

Ships, Guns and Bibles in the North Sea and the Baltic States, c.1350-c.1700 (2000)

Bremen and Hamburg were the eyes through which medieval Saxony viewed the North Sea. The two cities were not only the joint centres of a metropolitan archbishopric whose jurisdiction originally stretched across Scandinavia as well as northern Germany; they were also great commercial centres. Hamburg was to play a leading role in that amorphous federation of merchants and towns, the Hansa, which came to dominate the later medieval trade of the Baltic and North Sea worlds. Initially, however, commercial pre-eminence lay with the more westerly of the two towns. Indeed, as early as the eleventh century, the chronicler Adam of Bremen claimed that the merchants of the whole world congregated in Bremen.1 Although such a comment was laced more with local pride than statistical rigour, the city did develop into a bustling port, internationally famous from the thirteenth century for its manufacture of beer, with a population of perhaps 15,000 on the eve of the Black Death.2


By the thirteenth century Bremen’s commercial connections extended southwards, towards England and the Netherlands, and northwards, into the Scandinavian world, as well as into the city’s Saxon hinterland. Whether or not they extended westwards, to Scotland, is less certain. In offering a geographical description of the northern world, Adam had revealed only the vaguest of knowledge regarding Scotland and the Scots.3 Other than noting that a Scottish bishop had attended the Third Lateran Council, a fourteenth-century Bremen chronicler could also offer little detail regarding Scotland, and such information that was in his possession is more likely to have been acquired in Rome than Ross.4 Scottish chronicles, meanwhile, are stonily silent about Bremen. Such indifference probably reflected a lack of contact, including commercial interaction, between Scotland and Bremen. Certainly by the later thirteenth century, from when evidence of Hanseatic activities in Scotland first dates, Bremen merchants played little discernible part in Scottish trade. Only from the fifteenth century does concrete evidence of their commercial activity in Scotland survive and even then, compared to the trading activities of other Hanseatic merchants in Scotland, the role of Bremen merchants in Scottish trade seems to have been of a comparatively small scale and irregular nature.5

This is not surprising. Bremen produced little which Scottish merchants could not obtain elsewhere and, despite the fame of its breweries, it was the rival beers of Hamburg and Stralsund that seem to have supplied the Scottish market with what, in any case, remained something of a luxury product for most Scots. By the same token, there was only a limited market in Bremen for Scottish exports. Demand for wool, Scotland’s chief export throughout the middle ages, was restricted since Bremen was not a town renowned for its cloth production. Instead, its cloth imports were more readily furnished from England and the Low Countries. Although, given medieval religious customs and dietary conventions, there was a prodigious demand for fish in both Bremen itself and in neighbouring Westphalian towns, such as Osnabruck and Herford, this was met largely from Scandinavian sources, among which Shetland, at least until its annexation by the Scottish crown in 1469, ought to be included.6  Bremen and Scotland were not, then, close trading partners in the middle ages.

While these two semi-detached North Sea neighbours pursued their commerce largely independent of one another, by the early fifteenth century they did so against a common background of a straitened economy and a restructured political landscape. The effect of the Black Death and subsequent population loss had been to reduce the overall demand for goods, and customable exports from both Scotland and England accordingly show a marked decline in the early fifteenth century, even by comparison with the latter decades of the fourteenth century.7  Yet, competition for the remaining markets remained intense, not least because of the remarkable growth in the Dutch mercantile fleet.8  While this was evident across much of the northern North Sea world (at Newcastle, for instance, Dutch shipping accounted for roughly half of all in-coming vessels in 1407-8 and at Hull for about a fifth of vessel movements in 1430-31), the incursion of Dutch vessels into the Baltic posed a particular challenge to the Hansa’s domination of the east-west carrying trade.9  Indeed, this rivalry has traditionally been viewed as the underlying cause of the Dutch-Hanseatic war of 1438-41.10 This was, however, but one of several conflicts involving the Hansa in the early fifteenth century. An even more pressing threat to Hanseatic domination of Baltic trade was posed by the Danish crown and rivalry between the two great Nordic powers resulted in the Danish-Hanseatic war of 1426-35. Meanwhile, in addition to conflict with the Danes and the Dutch, Hanseatic relations with England were sour for much of the early fifteenth century, in essence the result of disputes regarding reciprocal trading privileges. Relations with Castile were interrupted between 1419 and 1443, following a Castilian attack on a Hanseatic fleet; and relations with Scotland deteriorated to the point that, in 1412, Hanseatic exasperation at Scottish piracy prompted the imposition of an embargo on trade with Scotland, which was not officially lifted until 1436.11

Hanseatic towns were not alone in maintaining appalling relations with their commercial neighbours. England too was in dispute with the Dutch, notably from 1436 to 1438, following the Burgundian change of allegiance in the Hundred Years War.12 Meanwhile, Scottish piracy led not only to the long-running dispute with the Hansa, but also to protracted, though never simultaneous, interruptions in Scottish trade with the three Netherlandish counties of Holland, Zeeland and Flanders between 1409 and 1427. Scotland was also deeply embroiled in the maritime dimension of the Hundred Years War, most notably for much of 1402, when a Franco-Scottish fleet under the command of the Earl of Crawford had sat in prey on English mercantile shipping in the Channel.13 Although these multifarious disputes were ostensibly of a limited nature, neutrals found it difficult to evade entrapment in their ramifications. It seems likely, for instance, that it was to Scottish members of Crawford’s fleet that the Flemish town of Ypres alluded in undated complaints about several acts of Scottish piracy committed on its merchants.14  Meanwhile, Scottish trade with the eastern Baltic was disrupted both by the blockade of the Oresund, mounted by the Wendish towns in furtherance of their war with the Dutch, and by Dutch attacks on Hanseatic vessels trading with Scotland.15  The net result was that concentric political and commercial rivalries spawned a general atmosphere of insecurity around the North Sea in the first half of the fifteenth century.16

It was against this background that one further manifestation of maritime insecurity occurred in the 1440s. It was centred on Bremen and involved an assortment of skippers and others. Although some acted in an apparently isolated context and an opportunist fashion, their number included several captains possessed of a fine pedigree in piracy. Not all of these men came from Bremen itself. Many, such as the menacingly nicknamed Grote Gherd (‘Big Gerry’), hailed from neighbouring Hanseatic towns, including Hamburg, Lubeck and, in Big Gerry’s case, Wismar.17  The lucrative deal whereby Bremen allowed its pirates to keep two-thirds of their captured goods and half the ransoms of those whom they had not thrown overboard, had lured many into the town’s service; and at least some of these outsiders were offered the additional perquisite of Bremen citizenship in return for their service.18

The activities of Bremen’s pirates in this decade ranged far and wide. Some of their attacks were launched in the vicinity of the rivers Weser and Elbe; but the favourite haunts of Bremen’s most predatory pirates appear to have been at sea, where they targeted the busy shipping routes off the Norwegian and Dutch coasts, as well as the congested and narrow waterways around Oresund, and, perhaps, the Forth estuary.19  Certainly, if the Forth was not a deliberately targeted zone, it was the location for some opportunist attacks, as were other areas, such as the waters around Portland Bill in England.20  In these locations (as indicated in Appendix 1) Bremen’s sea captains captured over 40 vessels in the mid-1440s alone. Indeed, since the lack of specific detail in surviving reports of the Bremen attacks makes it difficult to enumerate their number exactly, it is possible that there were substantially more incidents of a similar nature.21

The victims of these attacks came from all over Europe. Of the 23 captured vessels for which it is possible to identify a homeport, some originated from as far afield as Genoa and Lisbon in the south and others from Hamburg and Emden in the north. If we then proceed (as in Appendix 2) to examine who owned the goods which were seized, so the effects of Bremen’s activities ripple even further around Europe. The victims included a small cluster of southern European merchants, most of them with goods aboard a Genoese carrack which was captured off the English coast in 1446 and a Lisbon vessel seized the following year.22  Rather more came from the western European kingdoms of England and France;23 those from Scotland will form the core of what follows.24  There was also a cluster of north Europeans. Most of these came from the Hanseatic towns of Cologne, Danzig, Dortmund, Hamburg, Kampen, Lubeck, Luneburg and Pernau, though some Scandinavians also suffered: in 1444, for instance, the Stockholm merchant Magnus Schack was attacked on land, in the vicinity of the Weser, by the (almost aptly spelt) Bremen retainer, Bruse.25

For most of the campaign mounted in the 1440s it was, however, Burgundians and their property which were the principal targets of Bremen’s aggression. Indeed, the most notorious incident of the entire campaign occurred in 1443 when Big Gerry and his gang, duping his victims by hoisting the flags and standards of Hamburg, captured no fewer than 13 Burgundian ships near the Oresund.26  Most of these unfortunate victims were from Zierickzee and Westenschouwen in Zeeland, though in the preceding and succeeding years others, from virtually every Netherlandish province, suffered. The ostensible reason for the assiduous attention devoted to Burgundian shipping dates back to an incident in 1439, when a Bremen vessel returning home from England was captured and taken to Dunkirk, though the Flemish authorities claimed that mariners from St Malo, in Brittany, were actually responsible for the attack.27  Further tit-for-tat attacks, involving Amsterdam, Deventer and Dordrecht, followed;28and on about 24 July 1442 Bremen formally declared war on the Burgundian provinces. A month later the duke of Burgundy’s Dutch council, meeting in The Hague, authorised Amsterdam’s skippers to equip armed ships against Bremen.29  A war had begun; it was to last for almost four years.30

At one level, then, a series of attacks and recriminations had escalated into a full-scale maritime war. However, that such a comparatively trivial incident should lead to a flare-up of hostilities of the magnitude which followed begs the question of whether the feud between the Dutch and Bremen was indicative of more deep-rooted resentments. An obvious explanation would be to regard the hostilities as a renewed manifestation of Dutch-Hanseatic rivalry for dominance over the sea-borne trade of northern Europe. As we have already seen, Dutch-Hanseatic rivalry was a long-standing feature of the North Sea world in the fifteenth century, and the campaign waged by Bremen pirates against the Dutch followed swiftly on the coat-tails of the Dutch-Hanseatic war of 1438-41. Bremen had not, however, played a central role in this war: it had remained officially neutral, even offering Dutch shipping protection in the Weser, as the Netherlanders pursued their conflict with Bremen’s Wendish neighbours of Hamburg, Lubeck, Luneburg, Rostock, Stralsund and Wismar.31  Moreover, the principal issue at stake in the Dutch-Hanseatic war – the access of Dutch shipping to the Baltic – was of secondary concern to Bremen (with its North Sea focused trade) than it was to the Wendish towns (whose principal trade routes followed the east-west axis between the North Sea and the Baltic). Still, officially neutral or not, Bremen merchants had been periodically caught up in the conflict: on some occasions its mariners had joined in the attacks mounted by other Hansards on Dutch shipping, while, on other occasions, Bremen merchants had themselves fallen victim to Dutch aggressors.32 Bremen’s inability to acquire compensation for these attacks was an important factor in setting the city on its piratical course. Nevertheless, it would be understandable if Bremen too had become somewhat alarmed by the size of a Dutch mercantile fleet which, as we have seen, traded in the North Sea as well as the Baltic. Early fifteenth-century population levels were, at best, little above their post-Black Death nadir and the competition for the shrinking volume of trade all round the North Sea remained intense.

It seems likely, then, that Bremen’s dispute with the Dutch provinces was fuelled by the underlying cause of intensifying commercial rivalry in an inauspicious economic environment and ignited by the casus belli of unrecompensed Dutch attacks. Perhaps too the campaign of piracy should be interpreted as symptomatic of Bremen’s declining commercial importance. As is evident from developments at Barcelona and Novgorod in the later fourteenth century, and from Aberdeen in the 1410s, economic misfortune, and a greater than average downturn in the volume of legitimate trading activity, often expressed itself in piracy, as bona fide merchants and mariners turned to illegitimate, but often highly lucrative, acts of piracy to make ends meet.33  Yet, whatever their underlying cause, Bremen’s piratical activities won little applause from its Hanseatic allies.  In 1443, Hanseatic representatives, meeting their Dutch counterparts at Kampen, denied any involvement in Bremen’s nefarious activities.34 Moreover, correspondence between the Hanseatic towns of Wismar, Lubeck, Danzig and Reval (Tallinn) reveals an acute irritation at the news of Big Gerry’s audacious seizure of the 13 Burgundian vessels, while the activities of Bremen’s captains on the Elbe had soured relations between Bremen and Hamburg by 1444.35  The frowns of its Hanseatic colleagues notwithstanding, the attacks of the Bremen pirates continued unabated. Indeed, they escalated, and they escalated in what, by medieval standards, was a classic fashion.

In an era when the concept of neutrality was little understood, or at least sparingly applied, it was common for pirates to attack the ships of neutral third parties which contained goods belonging to the pirates’ principal protagonists. It was common, too, for pirates to seize goods that belonged to a neutral third party, but which had been laden in the hold of an enemy vessel. Of course, such a chain of events all too readily led to the direct involvement of third parties in the conflict. It was to limit such an eventuality that Bremen established guidelines regarding third parties by 1446. If, aboard the ship of a neutral third party, more than six lasts of goods belonged to the enemy, then the vessel was to be regarded as an enemy vessel; the entire cargo aboard an enemy vessel was, however, to be regarded as fair game for attack, whether it belonged to neutrals or not.36 While these guidelines may seem generous to the pirates, Bremen warned some friendly powers not to ship their goods on Dutch vessels. In 1443 and 1444 it reached a specific agreement to this effect with firstly the Frisian island of Terschelling and then Hamburg.37  Nevertheless, Cologne, for one, knew nothing of the impending sea war before its merchant Johann Dasse fell victim to Bremen’s captains in 1444.38

Yet, even when the guidelines were applied – and they clearly were not adhered to in the seizure of a Bristol ship sailing between Ireland and Sluis in 1445 – the scope for ensnaring neutral third parties in the conflict is evident.39  Even Bremen’s Hanseatic associates were caught out by the rules of engagement. Seizure of an Antwerp vessel in March 1444, provoked complaints from Cologne and Danzig whose merchants had possessed goods aboard the vessel.40  Seizure of another vessel in the Scheldt estuary entrapped the goods of two merchants from Pernau in Livonia.41  In May 1444, seizure of a Dunkirk vessel prompted what was to become a lengthy correspondence from Danzig seeking compensation for three of its merchants, who, while exporting goods from Scotland to the Baltic, had been set upon by Bremen pirates.42

The Danzig correspondence provides the first chronological indication of a Scottish dimension to Bremen’s piracy. The dispossessed Danzigers had lost a cargo which included rye, salt, woolfells, otter and fox skins and cloth, part of which had been freighted on a Dunkirk buss, skippered by Paul Joyssone, and another part of which had been laden on a Leith barge, skippered by Thomas Johnson.43  These two vessels, together with a second Scottish ship skippered by John Howieson, seem to have been sailing in a small convoy. This was a standard measure of protection against attack, though it was to prove of little effect on this occasion. The two Scottish vessels, as far as it is known, contained no Dutch-owned goods and both, it may be presumed, were attacked merely because of their transit arrangements with the Dunkirk skipper. The Danzig correspondence does not, however, reveal that the vessels aboard which its merchants had freighted their goods, were, in fact, freighted mainly with Scottish-owned commodities. That detail became clear only rather belatedly, when in 1445 seven letters of complaint arrived in Bremen from Scotland.44  These letters – one from Edinburgh, one from Linlithgow, one from Perth, one from Cupar and two from Dundee, followed by a seventh and final letter from the crown, which reported the appointment of ambassadors to negotiate on the matter – are interesting from a number of points of view.

Diplomatically, the correspondence bears all the hallmarks of a planned initiative by the Scottish authorities. The seven letters dispatched to Bremen were all dated within a month of each other and, indeed, with the exception of the slightly earlier Edinburgh letter (dated 14 July 1445) the rest were all dated within ten days of each other, in early August 1445. Certain phrases, too, are replicated in the letters from the five towns. It would seem that the matter of the Bremen attacks was discussed by representatives from the Scottish towns, perhaps at the parliament of 1445, which convened at Perth in mid-June 1445 and then re-assembled at Edinburgh just before then end of the month.45 There is no reference to the matter in the parliamentary record of that period, but Bremen was informed that the Scottish embassy had been appointed ‘ex matura deliberacione nostri parliamenti’. Alternatively, or additionally, the matter may have been discussed at a meeting of the court of the four burghs, for which no records survive; or perhaps informally at the exchequer audit, which began in Edinburgh on 5 July and at which representatives from all five towns were present.46 Whatever the case, there was almost certainly collusion between representatives of the five towns, and between the towns and the crown, and very probably collusion at some venue in Edinburgh, which could explain why the Edinburgh letter was written some weeks before the other six missives. Here, then we have evidence, or at least seem to have evidence, of a planned diplomatic initiative – a rare but detailed example of Scottish burgal co-operation in the diplomatic sphere, and a reminder that Scottish diplomacy was formulated not just at the behest of kings and barons, but also towns.

The letters are not, however, just interesting because of the light which they shed on diplomatic policy-making. They also paint an unusually, detailed picture of fifteenth-century Scotland’s overseas trade (see Appendix 3). The letters list each merchant who sustained losses in 1444 and, for the most part, each merchant’s goods which were laden on the three vessels attacked in 1444. Edinburgh interceded on behalf of the largest number of merchants, some 103 in total. Most of these were from Edinburgh itself, though there were also a sprinkling from neighbouring towns, including Canongate, Dunfermline, Dysart, Haddington, Inverkeithing, Lanark, Peebles and Selkirk, for whom Edinburgh also took responsibility, presumably on the grounds that their goods had actually been exported through Edinburgh’s port of Leith. The number trading from the other burghs was markedly smaller: 18 from Perth, 12 from Linlithgow, 11 from Dundee and three from Cupar. In addition to providing the names of the merchants who were exporting goods to Danzig, a detail which the Scottish customs accounts rarely provide, the Scottish correspondence also provides details about the cargoes captured by the pirates and the value of those cargoes. Among the large Edinburgh contingent of merchants, although some skins, salt, soap and wine were also recorded, cloth was the most common cargo. It accounted for well over two-thirds of the total value of goods freighted on the Leith ship and over 93% of the goods freighted on the Dunkirk ship.47  (No Edinburgh merchant seems to have had goods on the third ship.) Indeed, of the 103 Edinburgh-based merchants caught up in the incident, only one was definitely not shipping cloth abroad, though a further six had consignments described merely as ‘goods’; and of the vast majority who were dealing in cloth, all but 14 were dealing in cloth alone. Cloth featured prominently among the Linlithgow exports too, though this group of merchants also possessed a few skins and some precious stones, perhaps Scottish pearls, virtually Scotland’s only luxury export of the later middle ages.48 For Perth, Dundee and Cupar, the correspondence gives only the total value of the commodities lost, rather than the specific nature of the cargoes. But the total value of all the Scottish-owned goods on the three pirated vessels amounted to £4,618 18s 0d, of which 72.6% belonged to the Edinburgh group of merchants.

The dominance of Edinburgh’s stake in this highly lucrative trade is marked, and broadly accords with what is known from other sources. Edinburgh was already beginning to exercise a dominating role in Scotland’s overseas exports: by the 1420s the town accounted for 45% of all customable exports from Scotland and this share rose to 55% by the 1470s.49  With the availability of such detailed cargo lists, it might be hoped to relate these figures to the overall customs receipts for the year in Which they were seized, in order to discover both the proportion of Scottish exports seized by the Bremen pirates and the impact of one act of piracy on a small country’s overseas trade. Here, however, we strike a number of problems. Unfortunately, for instance, the customs accounts for Cupar and Linlithgow are missing for the relevant period and, although those for the other three towns survive, the number of vessels leaving Perth in the 1443-44 year of account is not recorded. Still, 15 vessels are recorded departing from Edinburgh’s port of Leith with customed goods between July 1443 and June 1444, and a further two left Dundee.50  It seems reasonable to assume that two of the three pirated vessels left Leith and, perhaps also, that goods from the other towns were shipped there, and maybe even customed there, before onward transit. On the other hand, since only Dundee merchants recorded losses on the third ship, it seems likely that Howieson’s ship departed from Dundee. Whatever the case, it would seem as if Bremen’s pirates had seized a sizeable proportion of the merchant shipping sailing from Scotland in 1443-44. There are, however, two further assumptions in this calculation: that the three pirated vessels all included customed goods and that they were, therefore, recorded among the vessels noted in the customs accounts. Yet, a curious problem emerges, if the extant customs accounts are compared with the cargo lists for the three vessels. This relates especially to the cargoes of cloth aboard the three vessels. The crown had authorised a customs levy on cloth exports in 1425, at a rate of 2s in the pound, but this lapsed shortly after James I’s death in 1437, and was not collected again until 1452.51  Now, given the value of the cloth shipped by the Edinburgh group of merchants alone, had the cloth custom been collected in the 1440s, at least £256 8s, and probably nearer £300, would have accrued to the exchequer in customs duty. Yet, only once in the fifteenth century (in 1499) did the Edinburgh cloth custom yield more than £300.52  Edinburgh, it is also worth noting, accounted for by far and away the largest proportion of total Scottish cloth receipts in the fifteenth century, handling 68% of all cloth exports in the 1450s.53  The three vessels captured by the Bremen pirates in 1444 clearly contained an extraordinarily large volume of cloth.

Was there, then, a thriving cloth manufacturing industry in later medieval Scotland? That, certainly, is a possibility since from the fifteenth century consignments of Scottish cloth were often exported to the Baltic region.54  These consignments were, however, comparatively small, and there is little documentary or archaeological evidence to suggest manufactures of the quantity aboard the three vessels captured in 1444. Besides, it is difficult to believe that had Scotland produced vast amounts or cry for export it would have remained untaxed, even by an institution as exceptionally conservative in fiscal matters as the Scottish crown. The exported cloth might not, then, have been Scottish at all. It was never described as Scottish in the voluminous correspondence relating to the captured cargo; and the fact that one merchant, Andrew Goldsmith, lost a cargo of wine to the Bremen pirates would certainly indicate that dealing in non-Scottish produce was not above the where with all of the Scottish mercantile community.55  Moreover, alternative sources of cloth are readily identifiable. It may have been Netherlandish in origin, which would have been grounds enough for the Bremen pirates’ interest. At least two of the Danzig merchants who lost goods in 1444 are known to have had commercial contacts with the Low Countries.56

On the other hand, there is also some circumstantial evidence which points towards the possibility of the cloth being English in origin. Hansard cloth exports from England rose markedly from the mid-1430s by comparison with the earlier fifteenth century.57  Most of this cloth was dispatched from south-eastern ports such as London, Ipswich and Sandwich. Hans von dem Walde, one of the Danzig merchants with goods aboard the vessels sailing from Scotland to Prussia, can also be traced regularly shipping cloth from both Sandwich and London in the years before 1444.58  Other alien (i.e. non-Hansard) exports of English cloth, among which Scottish purchases were classed by the English customers, were also remarkably buoyant in the early 1440s, especially from the ports of the London and Sandwich precincts. And again, in the years before 1444, a number of Scottish traders were dealing in English cloth in both the London and Sandwich precincts, while a John Howieson, perhaps the same Leith skipper who was involved in the 1444 incident, was dealing in cloth at Yarmouth in 1436-37.59  Unfortunately, however, the evidence which would clinch the argument – tracking down the Scottish and Danzig cargo-holders of 1444 in the English customs accounts – does not survive, since most of the English particular accounts are missing for this year. The most that can be deduced with certainty is that, wherever else it came from, the cloth which the Bremeners acquired in 1444 did not pass through Southampton, one of the few ports for which accounts do survive.60  It remains a distinct possibility, however, that in 1444 Scottish merchants had purchased large supplies of foreign cloth and that they intended to profit from its sale not in Scotland, but in the Baltic.

Let us return to the diplomatic mission which was instigated by the correspondence of 1445. The five Scottish towns had each appointed representatives to pursue claims for compensation with the Bremen authorities. The embassy, when it finally departed, showed some minor changes to the original urban nominations. According to the crown’s letter to Bremen, although the Scottish embassy was to include urban representatives, it was to be led by a royal nominee, Thomas Preston.61  In the event, however, Preston does not seem to have travelled to Germany. Rather, the actual negotiations were left to an embassy of townsmen, consisting of Andrew Ireland, a baillie of Perth, and two Edinburgh merchants, Thomas Jeffreyson and Stephen Hunter. Ireland had been nominated to pursue the matter by Cupar and Dundee, as well as Perth, though he had not personally suffered any losses at the hands of the pirates.62  On the other hand, his two colleagues had both owned substantial cargoes aboard the pirated vessels, Jeffreyson possessing £135 of white cloth on Johnson’s ship and Hunter £62 15s of cloth on Joyssone’s ship. Jefferson, we may presume, was also well connected in Hanseatic circles for he had promoted a general grant of royal privileges to merchants from Wismar visiting Scotland in 1440.63

We know little more about the Scottish embassy – how and when it travelled to Germany, whom it met there, what its terms of reference were – until on 16 October 1445 Jeffreyson, Hunter and Ireland appended their names to an agreement which had been reached with the Bremen authorities.64  This agreement ostensibly absolved Bremen of culpability for the attacks of 1444 and seemed to trade off the events of 1444 against three earlier incidents of alleged Scottish piracy on Bremen vessels. But, the form of words aside, it was the Scots who sailed away from the negotiations in possession of the Rose, a ship bequeathed by Bremen, together with anchors, tackling, rope and 40 last of beer. The beer was a curious addition, probably intended as a gesture of goodwill, though sceptics may wonder whether it reflected Bremen’s problems in disposing of its once highly prized, but by now somewhat less esteemed, manufacture.65  In addition, the Scots won guarantees that, should any Scottish merchants or their merchandise ever again be captured by the men of Bremen, these would be returned without penalty. In return, the Scots promised the Bremen merchants security and safe-conduct when visiting Scotland in future. The balance of this agreement was clearly more advantageous to the Scots than to Bremen; and this advantage was underlined when a second agreement was reached six months later, in April 1446.66 This dealt directly with the issue of the vessels pirated in 1444 and indicated that the Bremen council had now discharged fully its debts for two of the three ships – not, it may be assumed, for the Dunkirk vessel – and for all the Scottish-owned goods, as outlined in the original letters of complaint from Scotland. Game, set and match, so it would seem, to the Scots, albeit after some protracted negotiations.

The real test of the agreements reached in 1445 and 1446 came in the ensuing years as Bremen’s piratical adventures continued. In April 1446, a band of Bremen pirates appeared in the Forth and looted goods belonging to Edinburgh merchants which they found upon two foreign vessels, at least one of which was Dutch.67  Later in 1446 it was recorded that 14 Scots had been captured by Bremen pirates aboard a ship of probably Breton or Burgundian origin.68  And in 1462, Bremen pirates captured an Aberdeen vessel, then on its way to the eastern Baltic.69 On all three occasions it would seem as if a solution was sought within the terms of the 1445 agreement. Certainly, the first and third of these incidents – that committed in the Forth estuary and that committed somewhere between Aberdeen and Danzig – resulted in the dispatch of envoys from Edinburgh, and then from Aberdeen, to Bremen, with those from Edinburgh specifically in pursuit of a certificate from the Bremen authorities to confirm the agreement of 1445: the pirates had generously agreed that the Edinburgh merchants could have their goods back, free of charge, on production of such authentication. As for the second incident, that resulted in the Bremen authorities ordering that the 14 captured Scots be released without further ado.

From a Scottish perspective, then, the agreements reached with Bremen provided not only reasonable satisfaction for the initial act of piracy, but, it would seem, something of a protection against future depredations. For Bremen, the longer-term advantages of the Scottish accords are less clear-cut. The protection extended to its skippers and merchants by the first of the Scottish accords did not spark any noticeable increase in their presence in Scotland.70 It was, however, renewed and extended by James II in 1454.71  This second grant was perhaps an attempt to stimulate an in‑flow of foreign coinage. Much Scottish legislation of the fifteenth century sought to limit the drain of coinage from the country, and one means of counteracting this drain was by encouraging foreign merchants to spend their money in Scotland.72 More pressingly still, there are indications of a shortage of foodstuffs: other contemporary legislation decreed that `strangers that brings in vitals be favourably treated and thankfully paid for their vitals’ because of a temporary dearth in the Scottish harvest.73  Moreover, Scottish relations with Danzig, a more obvious source of grain than Bremen, had been strained for other reasons between 1449 and 1453.74  But if the royal grant to Bremen’s merchants was intended as a safety mechanism to secure grain supplies when relations with Danzig were uncertain, once again it failed to induce a frenzy of Bremen commercial activity in Scotland.75

If Bremen received little commercial advantage from its Scottish privileges, it is possible that it received rather more in the way of diplomatic assistance. According to the terms of the 1454 grant, James II promised rather vaguely to intercede with his allies on Bremen’s behalf. His allies, scrupulously courted since the marriage of his sisters Isabella (to the son of the duke of Brittany in 1442) and Mary (to the son of the lord of Vere in 1444), included the Bretons and Burgundians, with whom the Scots made full diplomatic alliances in 1448 and 1449.76  Both were foes of Bremen, and the Breton treaty specifically stated that the Scots would include Brittany in future treaties made with other powers.77  Scotland’s allies also, of course, included France and the promise enshrined in the 1454 charter was perhaps an indication that James was willing to intercede on Bremen’s behalf with Brittany and/or France, or maybe on behalf of the Bretons and/or French with Bremen, regarding a vessel belonging to the French queen which Bremen captains had seized before 8 July 1446. This may, indeed, have been the same vessel aboard which the 14 Scots were captured by Bremen’s captains and released shortly afterwards.78  The idea that Scotland and France act as mediators for each other with third parties was certainly fashionable at this juncture: from 1457 the French king Charles VII had been using his good offices to mediate between his mutual allies of Denmark and Scotland.79  Here, perhaps, was a quid pro quo. Although it may be merely coincidental, a Scottish embassy was dispatched to France in November 1458, and the next year renewed efforts were made to end the controversy over Queen Marie’s ship.80

Nevertheless, that such favourable and enduring agreements were finally reached is, from a Scottish perspective, significant. The Scots had obtained an initial settlement with Bremen within eight months of their first complaints and a final settlement took only 14 months. This took longer than the accommodations made by Bremen with the Genoese and Bristol merchants, but it was considerably speedier than the deals negotiated by Bremen with its other victims. The dispute with Cologne lasted at least two years from when Cologne had first raised the matter with Bremen; that with Harderwijk lasted about two and a half years from the initial incident which sparked off its dispute with Bremen; and that with the French, stemming from the capture of Marie d’Anjou’s ship in 1446, dragged through the later 1440s and 1450s to the point that Charles VII of France seems to have given up any hope of acquiring satisfaction. Moreover, Bristol, Genoa, Cologne, Harderwijk and the French, had all, unlike the Scots, been able to apply diplomatic pressure on Bremen through other channels.81  More remarkably still, the Danzig complaint, relating to the goods which were aboard exactly the same ships as those which the Scots had freighted, rumbled on until a partial settlement was finally reached in 1448, some four years after Danzig had first raised its complaints, and despite intercessions on Danzig’s behalf by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order.82  Moreover, the Danzigers whose goods had been captured were far from unimportant figures. They included both Rheinhold Nedderhof, by 1448 Burgermeister of Danzig and a man with commercial interests across, much of Western Europe, and Hans von dem Walde, a similarly eminent citizen and future Burgermeister of Danzig, with equally far-flung commercial interests.83 That it was so difficult to reach an agreement with Bremen is fully in keeping with the city’s generally awkward disposition. Bremen had something of a reputations the difficult daughter of the Hansa: its merchants had been excluded from Hanseatic privileges for a lengthy period from 1284, and then again briefly in 1427, for recalcitrance in adhering to Hanseatic policies.84 Yet, by comparison with the progress regarding Bremen’s other disputes, it would seem as if the Scots had done remarkably well for themselves.

Explaining the comparative alacrity with which Bremen reached agreement with the Scots is more problematic. Given the lack of commercial ties between Bremen and Scotland, there were no obvious economic imperatives to reaching an agreement. Any notions that a quick resolution of the dispute demonstrates the international power and prestige of a Stewart monarchy which, from the early fifteenth century, had decided to march Scotland onto the grandiose centre-stage of international diplomacy may also be discounted. The royal dynasty was probably never quite as diplomatically deluded about its international standing as many historians would seem to imagine and, besides, in 1445 the young James II had still not fully assumed control of his government. Indeed, the inability of the Scots to call upon the diplomatic assistance of other powers in their dispute with Bremen reflects the marginality of Scotland to northern European politics in the mid-fifteenth century. Scotland’s diplomatic interests were instead focused on Western Europe. Though even in this arena, the Scottish government’s other great foreign enterprise of the 1440s – marrying off James I’s daughters – was one which demonstrated little in the way of independent international initiative and much in the way of diplomatic dependency on its French and Burgundian allies in the quest to find suitable matches for the royal princesses and James II.85  French and Burgundian links were, however, of little use in the dispute with Bremen. Arguably, indeed, they were harmful for they associated the Scots with the duke of Burgundy, the overlord of Bremen’s principal protagonists in Holland, Zeeland and Flanders. Yet, the success of the Scottish envoys in Bremen is merely underlined by the fact that it was achieved despite keeping, in Bremen’s eyes, such bad diplomatic company.

If neither economic nor political factors are of much help in explaining the settlement, the growing recognition of international law is a slightly more helpful explanation. There has been a tendency to account for all the maritime disorder of the fifteenth-century in terms of rampant lawlessness. This was not the case, or, at least, not always the case. C.J. Ford, for instance, has convincingly argued that the `lawlessness’ evident in the Channel in 1402 was less a matter of piracy and more one of governmental policy, and that remarkably successful action was taken to avoid the entrapment of neutrals in this English-Franco/Scottish conflict. A similar effort to regulate acts of violence at sea pervaded many of the Anglo-Scottish truces and treaties of the fifteenth-century.86  Bremen’s conduct of the war at sea in the 1440s broadly accords with such developments. The town had a specific grievance with the Dutch and we may presume that there was some justification to Bremen’s resentments, since, following the peace which was finally patched up with the Dutch in 1446, the towns of Holland and Zeeland stumped up 12,000 Rhenish gulden in compensation to Bremen.87 Years of seeking redress by peaceful means having failed, Bremen’s only recourse had been to unleash its nautical myrmidons. They were not, we can be sure, pleasant people and, while their violent attacks on hapless Norwegian peasants in the vicinity of Stavanger might satisfy their own greed and lust for violence, such atrocities sat uncomfortably with their employer’s more limited objectives.88  Piracy might work, but it was difficult to control pirates who often spirited away and sold their gains without venturing near Bremen: a captured Breton vessel, for instance, was sold in Cornwall to an Irish merchant.89 Nevertheless, Bremen did struggle, however ineffectively at times, to control the excesses of its pirates. It laid down strict conditions of employment, regarding targets, regarding the delivery of the spoils to the city and regarding their division.90  Albeit slowly, it also offered redress to those, like the Scots and the Italians, who, by these rules, had been unjustly attacked. By contrast, neutrals, such as the Cologne and Danzig merchants whose goods had been captured aboard an enemy vessel from Antwerp in 1444, were generally less readily accommodated. Nevertheless, even this distinction does not satisfactorily explain why the Scots won speedier compensation than the Danzig merchants whose goods were aboard the same vessels as those of the Scots. And it remains difficult to understand why Bremen was generally more willing to make deals with non-Hanseatic powers than it was with its Hanseatic partners.

There remains one final point for consideration. From a Scottish perspective the most significant revelation afforded by the events of 1444-46 lies not in the attempt to acquire compensation for the captured cloth, but rather in the very existence of the cloth. Here was a major item of trade, from the sale of which substantial profits might be expected, which is simply not recorded in the Scottish customs accounts. Its existence points to grave deficiencies in the customs accounts if they are to be used, as they all too frequently have been, to establish broad generalisations regarding the nature of the Scottish economy. The later medieval Scottish economy, we are told, was an economy in crisis.  The market for the traditional exports of wool and hides had collapsed in the later fourteenth century; Scottish merchants were unable to diversify into other commodities; there was a severe balance of payments problem.91  Yet, wherever they came from, the cloth cargoes of 1444 demonstrate that, on the contrary, Scottish merchants could find alternatives to the old staples of wool and hides. If such a lucrative trade could escape the purview of the customs officials in 1444, one wonders on how many other occasions similar cargoes went similarly unrecorded. Such suspicion merely fuels the beacon of revisionism recently kindled by Nicholas Mayhew, who approached the Scottish economy from the unusual perspective of prices, rather than the ‘tyrannous construct’ of trade statistics.92  Mayhew concluded that the Scottish economy was altogether healthier than the Cassandras have bewailed; and this apostatical Cassandra also now believes that it is time to temper the old shibboleths of unmitigated economic doom and gloom.

End Notes

1. Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, B. Schmeidler ed., Monumenta Germaniae Historicia 1917, 204.

2. P. Dollinger, Die Hanse, 3rd ed., Stuttgart 1981, 86.

3. Gesta Hammaburgensis, 95, 239. In addition Adam make a few references to Orcadian ecclesiastical affairs: ibid., 344, 365-7.

4. Die Bremer Chronik von Rinesberch, Schene and Hemeling, H. Meinert ed., Bremen 1968, 64.

5. D. Ditchburn, `Merchants, Pedlars and Pirates: A History of Scotland’s Relations with Northern Germany and the Baltic in the Later Middle Ages’, Ph.D. diss. University of Edinburgh 1988, 157-62.

6. E.V.K. Brill, `Whalsey and the Bremen Connection’, Shetland Life 17, (March 1982), 10-6; E.V.K. Brill, `More Bremen Connections with Shetland’, Shetland Life 30, (April 1983), 34-7, 45; K. Friedland, ‘Der Hansische Shetlandhandel’ in Stadt and Land in der Geschichte des Ostseeraums, Lubeck 1973, 66‑79 (reprinted in K. Friedland,Mensch und Seefahrt zur Hansezeit, Cologne 1995, 190-205); K. Friedland, ‘Hanseatic Merchants and their Trade with Shetland’ in D.J. Withrington, ed., Shetland and the Outside World 1469-1969, Oxford 1983, 90-3. I am grateful to Dr Barbara Crawford for drawing my attention to the two articles by Mr Brill.

7. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, J. Stuart et al eds, Edinburgh 1878-1908 [hereafter ER], ii-iv, passim; E.M. Carus-Wilson and O. Coleman, England’s Export Trade 1275–1547, Oxford 1963, 122-3 [for wool exports], 138 [for cloth exports].

8. Some linguistic clarification is perhaps desirable: in this article the word `Dutch’ relates to Holland, Zeeland and Frisia; `Burgundian’ to Holland, Zeeland, Frisia and all those other areas, including Flanders and Brabant, under the duke of Burgundy’s control; and ‘Netherlandish’ to the Burgundian provinces and other areas in the Low Countries, such as Utrecht and Guelders, which remained, as yet, outwith Burgundian control.

9. Public Record Office, London, E122/106/41; E122/106/42; E122/61/32; W.P. Blockmans, ‘Der hollandische Durchbruch in der Ostsee’ in S. Jenks and M. North eds,Hansischer Sonderweg ? Beitrage zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Hanse, Cologne 1993, 49-58.

10. See, for instance, Dollinger, Hanse, pp. 384-37, though more recently the traditional interpretation has been challenged by D. Seifert, Kompagnons and Konkurrenten: Holland und die Hanse im Spatenmittelalter, Cologne 1997, 273-4, 277-8.

11. T. Lloyd, England and the German Hanse 1157-1611, Cambridge 1991, especially chapter 3; K. Hlibler, ‘Der Hansisch-Spanisch Konflikt von 1419 and die alteren Spanischen Bestande’, Hansische Geschichtsblatter [hereafter HGb] 8, (1894), 47-93; A. Reitemeier, `Das Handelsverbot der Hansa gegen Schottland (1412-1415/18)’, HGb 112, (1994) 161-236.

12. E.g. H.J. Smit, ed., Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis van den Handel met Engeland, Schotland en Ierland, s’Gravenhage 1928, ii, nos. 1084, 1085, 1087, 1089, 1251, 1254, 1257, 1259.

13. Archives Nationales, Paris, J645B/36; J645B/48; J919/8; J919/18.

14. J.H. Baxter, ed., Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree: The Letter Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), Oxford 1930, 223-228.

15. G. Freiherr von der Ropp, ed., Hanserecesse. Zweite Abtheilung (1431-76) (Leipzig, 1876-1892) [hereafter HR II], ii, nos. 238, 393; K. Holhlbaum et al., eds.,Hansisches Urkundenbuch (Halle, etc., 1886-1939) [hereafter HUB], vii, nos. 469, 767 (§ 34, 67); Urkundenbuch der Stadt Lubeck (Ldbeck, 1843-1905) [hereafter LUB], vii, no. 840; Smit, Bronnen, ii, nos. 1168, 1172.

16. D. Ditchburn, `The Pirate, the Policeman and the Pantomime Star: Aberdeen’s Alternative Economy in the Early Fifteenth Century’, Northern Scotland 12 (1992), 19–34; C.J. Ford, `Piracy or Policy: The Crisis in the Channel, 1400-1403′, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, 29 (1979), 63-77; S.P. Pistono, `Henry IV and the Vier Leden: Conflict in Anglo-Flemish Relations, 1402-1403′, Revue Belge de Philologie et d Histoire 54 (1976), 458-73; S.P. Pistono, `Henry IV and John Hawley, Privateer, 1399-1408′, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 111 (1979), 145-–63.

17.A.E. Hofmeister and A. Ropke, eds., Bremisches Urkundenbuch: Siebter Band 1442–1447 (Bremen, 1993) [hereafter BUB, vii], nos. 221, 244.

18. A formal agreement to this effect was made on 20 March 1446: BUB, vii, no. 389. See also ibid, no. 56, for an instance from 1442 when burgess rights were bestowed upon the captain Hans Engelbrocht.

19. E.g. BUB, vii, nos. 252, 377 (for the vicinity of the Weser), 179, 298 (for the vicinity of the Elbe), 187, 214, 217, 241 (for the Norwegian coast); 40, 125, 373 (for the Dutch coast); 101, 104, 105, 115, 116, 129, 244 (for the Oresund region); 398, 413 (for the Forth).

20. BUB, vii, nos. 332, 338, 339, 355, 387.

21. Appendix 1 does not include information regarding robberies, kidnappings and detention of goods or people which can not with some certainty be located on water. For incidents of this variety, involving men from Deventer, Stavanger, Ameland, Utrecht, Stockholm, Wenduine in Flanders, Hamburg and Nijmegen, see BUB, vii, nos. 111, 187, 238, 252, 261, 292, 314, 380, 454.

22. BUB, vii, nos. 405, 406, 408, 409, 440, 441.

23. BUB, vii, nos. 332, 338, 339, 355, 387. The origin of the French victims is unknown.

24. Staatsarchiv [hereafter StA] Bremen, 1/Bc 1445 Juli 15; 1/Bc 1445 August 4; 1/Bc 1445 August 10; 1/Bc August 12; 1/Bc August 13/1; 1Bc August 13/2; 1/Z August 14 (= BUB, vii, nos. 345, 348, 350-354; no. 354 is also printed in J.P. Cassel, ed., Merkwttrdige Urkunden eines Vertrags zwischen Jakob II, Kenig in Scotland und der Stadt Bremen …. Bremen 1769, no. 1).

25. For Cologne: Historisches Archiv der Stadt Koln [hereafter HA Kdln], Briefbuch 17, fos. l l v, 29v, 31, 73, 97, 121, 164, 165v, 174; Briefbuch 18, fo. 39 (=BUB, vii, nos. 215, 233-235, 299, 325, 335, 336, 361, 363, 366, 367, 402); for Danzig: StA Bremen, 1/Z 1444 Mai 14; I/Z 1444 Juli 4 (= BUB, vii, nos. 209, 231; see also ibid. no. 512); Wojewodzkie Archimum Panstwowe [hereafter WAP], Gdansk, 300/27/4, fos. 122v–-123v, 125-126v, 139, 147v-148r, 174, 183; 300/27/5, fos. 21 v, 22, 32v; for Dortmund: BUB, vii, no. 214; for Kampen: ibid, nos. 262, 298; for Lubeck: ibid, no. 344; for Luneburg: ibid, no. 372; for Pernau: ibid, no 373; HR II, iii, no. 220; and for Stockholm: BUB, vii, no. 252.

26. BUB, vii, nos. 101, 104, 105, 115, 116, 129, 244.

27. BUB, vii, pp. 412-413.

28. BUB, vii, nos. 11, 25, 92.

29. BUB, vii, nos. 28-30, 40, 41. No mention is made in these documents of Brabant, though ships from Antwerp were subsequently captured by Bremen’s captains: see Appendix 1, nos. 12, 14.

30. BUB, vii, nos. 400, 403, 410, 426.

31. H. Schwarzwalder, `Bremen als Hansestadt im Mittelalter’, HGb, 112 (1994), 29-30.

32. Seifert, Kompagnons, 381-382.

33. D. Ditchburn, `Piracy and War at Sea in Late Medieval Scotland’, in T.C. Smout, ed., Scotland and the Sea, Edinburgh 1992, 39.

34. HR II, iii, nos. 152, 262, 281.

35. BUB, vii, nos. 101, 104, 115, 116, 175, 179; HR II, iii, nos. 49, 50, 52.

36. BUB, vii, no. 389.

37. BUB, vii, nos. 32 (to Kampen), 46 (to the Prussian towns), 125 (with Terschelling), 179 (with Hamburg).

38. HA Koln, Briefbuch 17, fo. 121 (=BUB, vii, no. 335).

39. BUB, vii, nos. 332, 338, 339, 355, 387.

40. HA Koln, Brietbuch 17, fos. l l v, 29v, 31, 73, 97, 121, 164, 165v, 174; Briefbuch 18, fo. 39 (= BUB, vii, nos. 215, 233-235, 299, 325, 335, 336, 361, 363, 366, 367, 402; see also ibid, nos. 221, 225, 232); WAP Gdansk, 300/27/4, fo. 126v; 300/27/5, fos. 22v, 32v; G. Asaert, ed., Documenten voor de Geschiedenis van de Antwerpse Scheepvaart, Brussels 1985, 77, 192.

41. BUB, vii, no. 373; HR II, iii, no. 220.

42. StA Bremen, I/Z 1444 Mai 14; 1/Z 1444 Juli 4 (= BUB, vii, nos. 209, 231); WAP Gdansk, 300/27/4, fos. 122v‑123v, 125, 147v-148r, 183; 300/27/5, fos. 21v, 22r.

43. WAP Gdansk, 300/27/4, fo. 125. On these and other ship types noted in Appendix 1, see A.D.M. Forte, `The Identification of Fifteenth-Century Ship Types in Scottish Legal Records’, The Mariner’s Mirror, 84 (1998), 3‑12; R.W. Unger, The Ship in the Medieval Economy, 600-1600, London 1980, passim.

44. StA Bremen, I/Bc 1445 Juli 15; I/Bc 1445 August 4; I/Bc 1445 August 10; I/Bc August 12; I/Bc August 13/1; I/Bc August 13/2; 1/Z August 14 (= BUB, vii, nos. 345, 348, 350-354)

45. APS, ii, 33, 59.

46. ER, v, 176.

47. See Appendix 3.

48. For a rare example of exported pearls, see B. Kuske, ed., Quellen zur Geschichte des Kolner Handels and Verkehrs, Bonn 1817-34, ii, no. 788.

49. P.G.B. McNeill and H.L. MacQueen, eds., Atlas of Scottish History to 1707, Edinburgh 1996, 250.

50. ER, v, 146, 148, 151.

51. APS, ii, 8 (§ 19); ER, v, I 3-509, passim.

52. ER, xi, 228, 230. Moreover, this account covers an unusually long period, from 30 June 1498 to 5 March 1500. The next highest amount (£295 13s) was raised in 1497-98 (ER, xi, 121).

53. ER, v and vi, passim. The percentage covers the accounts for 1452-59, with the exception of 1453, for which no Edinburgh return survives.

54. D. Ditchburn, `Trade with Northern Europe, 1297-1540′ in M. Lynch et al, eds., The Scottish Medieval Town, Edinburgh 1988 167; H. Samsonowicz, `Englander and Schotten in Danzig im Spatmittelalter’ in K. Friedland and F. Irsigler, Seehandel und Wirtscahftswege Nordeuropas im 17. and 18. Jahrhundert, Ostfildern 1981, 50; T. Riis, `The Baltic Trade of Montrose in the 16th and 17th Centuries’ in G. Jackson and S.G.E. Lythe, eds., The Port of Montrose: A History of its Harbour, Trade and Shipping, New York 1993, 106; S.G.E. Lythe, The Economy of Scotland in its European Setting, 1550-1625, Edinburgh 1960, passim.

55. StA Bremen, I/Be 1445 Juli 15 (= BUB, vii, no. 345, at p. 344).

56 WAP Gdansk, 300/27/4, fo. 174r; Asaert, Documenten, 72.

57. Carus-Wilson and Coleman, Export Trade, 88-96.

58. PRO London, E122/77/3 (London, 1437-38), passim; E122/73/10 (London, 1438–39), passim; E122/73/12 (London, 1438-39), passim; E122/127/18 (Sandwich, 1439–40), fo. 1.

59. E.g. PRO London, E122/73/12 (London, 1438‑39), fos. l5v, 36r; E122/76/38 (London, 1439‑40), m. 2r 4v, 5v; E122/127/18 (Sandwich, 1439-40), fos. 4, 8; Norfolk Record Office, Norwich, Y/64/145, m. 12r.

60. PRO London, E122/140/62.

61. On Preston see ER v 38, 635; Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, Scottish Burgh Record Society 1869-92, i, 6-7.

62. Ireland’s name appears regularly in the Perth Guildry Book of the fifteenth century (Perth Museum and Art Gallery Archive 1/1); in 1451 he was also a witness to an Anglo-Scottish truce (J. Bain et al, eds., Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, Edinburgh 1881-1987, iv, no. 1240).

63. Stadtarchiv Wismar, II Hanseatica C25 (= HUB, vii, no. 556).

64. StA Bremen, 1/Bc 1445 Oktober 16 (= BUB, vii, no. 364 ; Cassel, Urkunden, no. 2;

translated in P.F. Tytler, The History of Scotland, 2nd ed., Edinburgh 1864, ii, 385–386).

65. Dollinger, Hanse, 298.

66. StA Bremen, 1/Bc 1446 April 16 (=BUB, vii, no. 395).

67. StA Bremen, 1/Bc 1446 April 23 (= BUB, vii, no. 398).

68. StA Bremen, 1/Z 1446 Juni 27 (= BUB, vii, no. 423; Cassel, Urkunden, no. 3).

69. City Archive [hereafter CA] Aberdeen, Council Register, v (1), 445.

70. For a rare instance of a Bremen commercial activity in Scotland at this juncture, see

HUB, viii, no. 232; LUB, ix, no. 126, which relate to a Bremen ship sailing from Scotland to Holland in 1452.

71.StA Bremen, Cop. Arch. 266a (=HUB, viii, no. 223; Cassel, Urkunden, no.4)

72. J. Day, `The Great Bullion Famine of the Fifteenth Century’, Past and Present, 79 (1978); D.M. Metcalf, ed., Coinage in Medieval Scotland (British Archaeological Reports 45, 1977).

73. APS, ii, 41. For earlier parliamentary measures implying a shortage of grain in Scotland in both 1450 and 1452, see ibid, 36, 41.

74. Ditchburn, `Merchants, Pedlars and Pirates’, 331-332.

75. The first evidence which I have found of a Bremen ship trading in Scotland following the 1454 grant comes in 1456: CA Aberdeen, Council Register, v(1), 266.

76. Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh, SP7/13; British Library, Harleian MS 4637 III, fos. 12-14.

77. That the Bretons were foes of Bremen is stated in StA Bremen, 1/Z 1446 Juni 27 (=BUB, vii, no. 423).

78. StA Bremen, 1/Z 1446 Juni 27 (=BUB, vii, no. 423).

79. A.I. Dunlop, The Life and Times of James Kennedy, Bishop of St Andrews, Edinburgh 1950, 197-201; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot… Scottish-Danish Relations c.1450‑1707, Odense 1988, i, 16-17.

80. J.M. Thomas et al, eds., Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scottorum (Edinburgh, 1882-1914) ii, nos. 641-643; HR, II, iv, nos. 672, 673, 710-717. More generally on the capture of the French vessel, see O. Held, `Die Hanse and Frankreich von der Mitte des 15. Jahrhunderts bis zum Regierungsaustritt Karls VIII’, HGb, 18 (1912), 121-237.

81. Bristol was supported by the London, the English king and the Hanseatic Kontor in London; Genoa by the Hanseatic Kontor in Bruges; Cologne by the bishop of Munster, Harderwijk by Arnhem, Deventer, Kampen and Zutphen; and the French by the Hanseatic Kontor in Bruges, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and Liibeck:BUB, vii, nos. 134-138, 336, 338, 339, 387, 408, 409, 439, 442, 473.
82. StA Bremen, 1/Z 1444 Juli 4 (= BUB, vii, no 231).

83. C. Brammer, `Die Entwicklung der Danziger Reederei im Mittelalter’, Zeitschrift des Westpreussischen Geschichtsverein, 63 (1922), 49-50.

84. Schwarzwulder, `Bremen als Hansestadt’, 8-13, 22-28.

85. D. Ditchburn, `The Place of Guelders in Scottish Foreign Policy, c.1449-c.1542′ in G.G. Simpson, ed., Scotland and the Low Countries 1124-1994 (East Linton, 1996), 60-63.

86. Ford, `Piracy or Policy’, 63-77; Ditchburn, `Piracy and War’, 44-45.

87. BUB, vii, nos. 400, 401, 404, 410, 426, 447; Seifert, Kompagnons, 399-400.

88. BUB, vii, no. 187.

89 .BUB, vii, no. 548.

90. BUB, vii, nos. 56, 389.

91. Generally pessimistic interpretations of the later medieval economy are advanced by A. Grant, Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306-1469, London 1984, 79-82; D. Ditchburn, `Trade with Northern Europe, 1297-1540′ and A. Stevenson, `Trade with the South, 1070-1513′, both in M. Lynch et al, eds., The Scottish Medieval Town, Edinburgh 1988, 161-206; M. Lynch, Scotland: A New History, London 1992, 70-73; and most recently in P.G.B. McNeill and H.L. MacQueen, eds., Atlas of Scottish History to 1707, Edinburgh 1996, 239-241.

92. E. Gemmill and N. Mayhew, Changing Values in Medieval Scotland: A study of prices, money, and weights and measures Cambridge 1995, especially chapter six. I owe the phrase to E.A.R. Brown, `The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of Medieval Europe’, American Historical Review, 79 (1974), 1063-1088.

Appendix 1; Victims of Bremen’s Sea Captains, 1443-1446

Date of the Attack Ship type, name Skipper Home port Route of voyage Location
1443, c.30 May   Pieter Lamssone Zierickzee   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Sceele Wouterssone Zierickzee   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Witte Wissensone Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Gillis Janssone die Lantmeter Zierickzee   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Voernout Borwoutssone Zierickzee or Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Yen Reyne Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Coppin Oelle Zierickzee or Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Heyn Bolle Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May buss Boudin die Vischere Zierickzee or Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May   Oert de Goe Zierickzee or Westenschouwen   Kattegat
1443, c.30 May crayer   Amsterdam   Kattegat?
1443, c.30 May barge Costiin Mathijsson Antwerp   Kattegat?
1443, c.30 May   [Ysebrand Keyser ?] [Netherlands]   Kattegat?
1444, 22 March   Lambrecht van Passe Antwerp Antwerp-Prussia  
1444, 28 April   Dibbolt van Duren Kampen   Norwegian coast
1444, 14 May barge Thomas Johnson Leith Leith-Prussia?  
1444, 14 May buss Paul Joyssone Dunkirk Leith-Prussia?  
1444, 14 May   John Howieson Leith Dundee-Prussia?  
1444, 12 July boyer Reinke Meckensone [owner] Groningen    
1444, 27 July     Terschelling?    
1444, 27 July     Terschelling?    
1444, 22 Jan x 2 Aug   Jebbe Peterson, Peter Meyg [owners] Elmersberg & Norden?    
[1444?] 13 Sept   Godere van Hindeloppe      
1444, 21 Sept   Euart Damme      
1444, 30 Sept   Pele Ghysensoen? Harderwijk? Hamburg-? Oestereemzee
shortly after 1444, 21 Sept   Pele Ghysensoen? Harderwijk? Hamburg-?  
1 day later   Pele Ghysensoen? Harderwijk? Hamburg-?  
[1444?]     Kampen?   Elbe
1444, 10 May Christopher John Flemming Bristol Ireland-Sluis Portland Bill
1445, 7 July   Hans Osterman Hamburg Flanders-Prussia?  
1445, 8 Dec Hulk   Holland Prussia-?  
1445, 8 Dec Hulk   Holland Prussia-?  
1445, 8 Dec     Holland Bay of Bourgneuf-Prussia?  
1445, 8 Dec     Holland Bay of Bourgneuf-Prussia?  
1445, 8 Dec     Holland Bay of Bourgneuf-Prussia?  
1445, 27 Dec     Emden Weser-Emden  
1446, 21 April Helbrok       Leith
1446, 21 April buss, Michael   Holland   Leith
1446, 27 May Carrack Peter Embron Genoa   English coast
1446, 27 June Hulk   Burgundian or Breton?    
1446, 8 July Hulk Marie d’Anjou [owner] France    
1446, 26 Oct   Johannis Saucis Lisbon    
[c.1442-1446]   Dietrich Bone Emden   Wester-ems
[1443-1446] Treveren John Legodek [owner] Penmarch    

Appendix 2: Scottish-owned Cargoes Captured by Bremen’s Sea Captains, 1444

Ship of Thomas Johnson

Town Commodity Value
Edinburgh Cloth
cloth & other
Rabbit skins
fox skins


Linlithgow Cloth & other Not recorded
Perth Unspecified £257-16-00
Cupar Unspecified £72-60-00
Dundee Unspecified £282-17-06

Ship of Paul Joyssone

Town Commodity Value
Edinburgh Cloth
cloth & other
Linlithgow Cloth & other Not recorded
Perth Unspecified £129-00-00
Cupar Unspecified £0
Dundee Unspecified £105-08-04

Ship of John Howieson

Town Commodity Value
Edinburgh Not recorded £0
Linlithgow   £0
Perth   £0
Cupar   £0
Dundee   £18-15-00



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