Danzig -- History -- 17th and early 18th century

Danzig's prosperity reached its zenith in the late 16th and 17th centuries, when it was the most prosperous port on the Baltic. The shipyards launched their first warship in 1572. Spared most of the heavy damages suffered by Germany in the Thirty-Years War (1618-1648), Danzig was nevertheless embroiled in the Northern Wars of the late 17th century. During this part of the war (1655-1660) Danzig remained loyal to the Polish crown while the Swedes occupied it. As a consequence, the city was forced to pay large fines to the Swedes, a depletion of city coffers which began a slow decline in the city's prosperity. In addition Russia became a growing economic threat, and Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia (1620-1688) opened a water route linking the Oder, Spree, and Havel with the Elbe river, thereby cutting off certain portions of central Europe, among them Silesia, from Danzig and reorienting much trade through Hamburg. The population of Danzig fell from about 70,000 in the mid-17th century, to about 50, 000 by 1705, and 48,000 in 1730. The plague of 1709 ravished Danzig's population (an estimated 24,500 people died in Danzig and the surrounding areas). The last Northern War (1700-1721) and the Russian siege of 1734, ending with the capitulation of the city, were also very costly.