Society, Statehood and Religion in Late Medieval Dalmatia
The Balkans are usually seen as a typical area of cross-cultural interference between the Orthodox and the Islamic worlds. Nevertheless, the number of detailed case studies on everyday interaction in borderlands is still rather limited. This is also true for the later Middle Ages and especially for that area where Western and Eastern Christianity, and from the 15th century onwards Islam, met: the eastern Adriatic coast and its Dinaric hinterland. Historic Dalmatia is probably one of the most fascinating and at the same time still one of the most under-researched areas in late medieval Europe. This part of VISCOM proposes to explore a wide range of mostly untouched archival material in the State archive of Zadar. This source material permits to study in a thick description how people from different religious and social backgrounds, but mostly belonging to the same language group, interacted on a local and regional level and how they positioned themselves vis-à-vis of the larger states/empires, Venice and the Ottoman Empire. This Project uses micro-history to analyze continuity and change of communities and religions shedding light on fluid confessional borders by retracing the careers and ‘living worlds’ (Lebenswelten) of sailors and pastors (which is made possible by an extreme wealth of penal processes); strategies of boundary-crossing in everyday economy can be studied in detail. Focusing on urban and village societies in coastal Dalmatia, the process of integration of immigrants and refugees from the Balkan hinterland will be analyzed in depth. The main thesis of the project is that in Pre-Ottoman times neither ethnic nor confessional identities did play a major role on the eastern Adriatic coast (Dalmatia), but that things changed gradually with the Ottoman conquest (Islamization and a stronger influx of Orthodox migrants from the central Balkans). Regional societies had to cope with the superposition of two major states, Venice and the Ottoman Empire. The study focuses on the extremely well documented Venetian perspective and discusses strategies and practices of adaptation to the Venetian power model on a local level, fully including rural societies and the gender aspect.
Illustration: Le Royaume de Dalmacie (detail), ca. 1690 (Sammlung Ryhiner, ZB Bern, ZB Ryh 6408-5)