Research Focus

Comparison of Rural Communities in the Dalmatian Areas of Split and Korčula (1420-1540)

This PhD project compares rural communities in the hinterland of Split (Solin, Klis, Poljica) and on Korčula (1420-1540). Villagers (farmers, pastors, wine-growers, fishermen or sailors) and their everyday life are the focal point of the analysis. These people were usually considered to be mere commoners, but also noblemen lived, and worked, on the countryside. Using methods of microhistory, the goal of this project is to retrace their "Lebenswelten" in order to understand processes of change and continuity of rural communities in late medieval Dalmatia. In the course of the 15th century, the Dalmatian mainland experienced intensifying social changes due to mass migration movements caused by the Ottoman conquest. This especially affected the border region in the hinterland of Split, where Bosnian neighbourhoods were gradually replaced by Ottoman neighbourhoods. By comparison, the changes on the island of Korčula were largely wrought by maritime factors (mainly Ragusa). Studying the changes these rural communities were undergoing, and providing a thick description of the everyday interaction of their members, united by a common slavic language, but with various social backgrounds, enables us to better understand their social cohesion, legal claims and political presence as counterpart to the local patricians.

The project is envisaged to provide a comparative analysis on two levels. First, aspects of the commonalities and differences within these rural communities are examined and compared as detailed case studies, and subsequently contextualized into the frame of late medieval Mediterranean history. The results then provide a basis for comparison with the closely interwoven dissertation project on urban communities.

Based on the extensive source material preserved in the State archive of Zadar, the use of terms and narratives of community is scrutinized in various fields of discourse, particularly when regarding quarrels over the sovereignty of interpretation of statutory and common law. Especially penal processes allow detailed insights into community-building processes on a structural level, and in the motivations of their agents on an individual level. The research project investigates, how these agents interacted on local and regional levels, how they envisaged ,community‘ and how these communities functioned. Moreover, self-perception and delimitation of rural communities and the impact of religious or political concepts of identity are a matter of interest for the reconstruction of the life of the peasantry and their social networks. In this context, the integration of immigrants and refugees from the Dinaric hinterland and the role of women in this rural borderland society are examined. Also, it is of high interest, how these rural communities adapted to the Venetian suzerainty and positioned themselves towards the competing Ottoman Empire.

Researcher: Fabian Kümmeler


The book offers a micro-historical reconstruction of the rural worlds and communities in Venetian Dalmatia. On an archival basis that was extraordinarily rich for the 15th century, a vivid picture of everyday life in the late Middle Ages on the island of Korčula and of the self-image of its village communities is created. The interdisciplinary perspective brings to light the lifeworld dimension of the Venetian administrative and legal practice in the rural Stato da mar. In addition, there is an anthropologically inspired close-up view of the socio-cultural and socio-economic forms of interaction in rural society as well as the seasonality of rural and pastoral life in the Mediterranean region. The results provide important impulses for comparative studies of rule, court and administrative practice in the late Middle Ages as well as for overarching questions on rural social, cultural and economic history.

Illustration: Le Royaume de Dalmacie (detail), ca. 1690 (Sammlung Ryhiner, ZB Bern, ZB Ryh 6408-5)

Last Update: 10.03.21