Croatia: A History

Croatia: A History

Croatia: A History

Croatia: A History


When in the fourth century the Roman empire split into the Western and Eastern empires, the boundary between the two stretched from the Montenegrin coast up the river Drina to the confluence of the Sava and the Danube and then further north. This boundary has remained virtually unchanged for 1,500 years: the European, Catholic West and the Orthodox East meet on Slav territory.

There were, and still are, ethnic similarities between the peoples on either side of the divide, but their culture and history differ fundamentally. The Croats and Croatia, on the western side of the divide, are traditionally linked with Hungarian, Italian, and German regions and Western Europe, and are also influenced by their long Mediterranean coastline.


By the fifteenth century, humanist circles congregated in Croatian cities along the eastern Adriatic coast were already interested in the history of Croatia. The first survey of its kind, Six Books on the History of Croatia and Dalmatia, written byIvan Lučić and published in Amsterdam in 1667, typified the erudite historiography then dominant. The writing of Croatian history has been pursued ever since and flourished especially after the mid-nineteenth century. Despite this outpouring, books dealing with the entire span of Croatian history, detailing its major periods, were few and far between.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century the task of writing Croatian history was often taken up by Hungarian, Italian and Austrian historians since areas of Croatia formed part of their countries' territory at the time. After the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918, interest in the subject among non-Croats subsided and relatively few histories of the long and complex Croatian past were published abroad. This was partly because Yugoslavia was considered its own entity and interest in its history tended to focus on Serbia. Thus in order to respond to what we saw as a gap in the historiography of Croatia, the range of this book is from antiquity to the present.

I wrote it in the tumultuous period of the formation of an independent and democratic Croatian state and its struggle for survival. Of course, anything written during this period would have to take those events into account, but the book contains much more than the resolution of the Croatian national question, important though that question is. Instead, it focuses on how a small European nation has attempted for half a millennium to fortify its links with central and western Europe; how it has aspired to achieve the living standards enjoyed by its western and northern neighbours; and its compelling architectural and literary cultural production. I have tried to track these major developments.

I must thank my late friend Ivan Durić (1947-97), Serbian historian and politician, who persuaded me to write the first draft of this book. I also thank Dr Mirjana Dross, my professor at the . . .

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