1522-1557 1660-1793

Danzig, 1557-1660

While the Hanseatic League experienced a decline, while the Livonian Order disintegrated, the territory of the Teutonic Order, transferred into the Duchy in Prussia, was reduced to insignificance, the Hanseatic city of Danzig continued to flourish, based on her control of the Polish grain export trade; Danzig's Baltic Sea shipping was (a distant) second only to Dutch shipping.
Danzig's autonomy was the result of a long historical development and not without critics at the Polish court. In 1565, Poland entered on the path of COUNTERREFORMATION; the Jesuits established themselves in Braunsberg in Warmia. The King ordered a commission to revise the constitutions of the (protestant) cities of Danzig and Elbing; in 1570 the King (acting in Warsaw) cancelled her old statutes and declared in force the STATUTA KARNKOWIANA (named after the Bishop of Leslau), which considerably limited the authority of the city council. These statutes were widely rejected in the city. In 1572 King Sigismund died; he was succeeded by Stephen Bathory. Danzig's city council announced to declare homage only after her privileges (i.e. the old statutes) would have been confirmed; the king refused. When Danzig's city council failed to pay homage, the king declared the BAN over her (Sept. 24th 1576). Negotiations failed, and in 1577 a Polish army laid siege to the city. The latter held out, and a settlement was negotiated; the city paid 200,000 Gulden; the King recognized her old privileges and confirmed the city's Lutheran confession; the ban on Danzig was lifted. Danzig had successfully defended her autonomy against the Polish monarchy.
In 1585 the Jesuits were granted permission to establish themselves in Danzig and preach in the former Dominican convent, later in the former convent of St. Bridget, where they established a chapel. They served a small Catholic community.
As a political factor, the HANSEATIC LEAGUE disintegrated in the 16th century; the last Prussian-Livonian HANSETAG (Hanseatic diet) was held in 1604. The troubles in the Netherlands diminished the function of Brughes-Antwerp as the center of European trade, and direct trade communications between Italy and Danzig were established. Danzig's population for 1577 is estimated at 40,000, for 1600 at around 50,000; the city grew, and new fortifications were constructed. In 1602-1603, c.15,000 citizens fell victim to the plague.
In 1558, in the facilities of the former Franciscan monastery, the DANZIG GYMNASIUM (high school) was opened. It attracted students from Silesia, Courland, Poland and Livonia. In 1582 the GREGORIAN CALENDAR was introduced.
In 1591-1593 the Papal State suffered a famine; Danzig sent a shipment of grain. Pope Clement VIII. in 1593 granted a privilege to the city. Since 1595, many Danzigers studied in Padua.
Emperor Rudolf invited Danzig to attend the Imperial Diet in 1594, 1597, 1602, 1606, 1607, in an attempt to get the city contribute to Imperial expenses; Emperor Matthias invited Danzig 1612, 1615; Danzig did not attend.
Danzig had c. 49,000 inhabitants in 1601; the Black Death in 1602 caused 18,700 fatalities, in 1620 11,900 dead, in 1624 10,500 dead. In August 1604 the Swedish fleet blocked Danzig harbour for several days.
The conflict between Sweden (since 1611 King Gustavus II. Adolphus, of the Wasa Dynasty) and Poland (since 1587 King Sigismund III., a Vasa who had converted to Catholicism) was to have grave consequences for the city of Danzig. Swedish forces invaded (Polish) Livonia in 1621, the Duchy in Prussia in 1626; a Swedish fleet blocked Danzig's port. A combined Danzig-Polish fleet defeated the Swedish fleet off Glettkau on Nov. 28th 1627. In 1629 a peace settlement was concluded, which permitted Danzig's trade to revive. The city, however, had to accept the continued collection of Swedish tolls from ships who visited Danzig's port. On Feb. 28th 1630, Danzig and Sweden concluded an agreement concerning the city's neutrality. Sweden claimed 3,5 % of the customs tariff raised in Danzig; the Swedish share in 1634 making up half of Sweden's total state revenue. In 1635, in the Treaty of Stuhmsdorf, Sweden gave up her share in the Danzig customs; the war had cost Danzif 10 million guilders.
In 1640 the first weekly magazine was published in Danzig. In 1650-1655, the city's fortifications were modernized. In 1653, the Black Death again claimed 11,600 victims. In 1656, the first Polish language newspaper in Danzig was published. In 1650 the population of Danzig numbered 77,000.
In 1654, Swedish King Charles X. invaded Poland; in 1655 he appeared outside the Danzig city walls, but refrained from laying siege. A Dutch fleet arrived (1656), reopening the vital trade with the Netherlands.
Economically, the 17th century, the era of the Swedish wars, were a period of decline, as the trade suffered from costly interruptions, considerable sums had to be spent on fortifications and troops, and loans granted to the Polish kings proved irretrievable.

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DOCUMENTS Coat of Arms, from International Civic Heraldry
REFERENCE Erich Keyser, Danzigs Geschichte, (Danzig 1928) Reprint Hamburg : Danziger Verlagsgesellschaft Paul Rosenberg, undated (History of Danzig), 300 pp.
Hans Georg Siegler, Danzig - Chronik eines Jahrtausends (Danzig - Chronicle of a Millennium; a timeline), Düsseldorf : Droste 1990, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 10th 2002, last revised on November 11th 2004

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