Military Life and Warrior Images in Croatian Borderlands from the 16th Century until 1918

Project goals

The project has a research and educational objective. The research objective is to learn about demographic, socio-economic and political circumstances in Croatian borderlands and about the causes and consequences of these circumstances that formed the everyday life of Croatian soldiers and their identities. Research will focus on the Lika and Otočac Regiments of the Military Frontier, Zadar and Kotor as central strongholds of the Republic of Venice on the East Adriatic coast, the Republic of Dubrovnik and Dalmatia during the French and Austrian administration (before and after the Congress of Vienna). Therefore, the project will geographically cover the Dinaric Alps between Lika in the north and Kotor in the south, i.e. the natural border that connects the Mediterranean with Central Europe. With regard to the time scope the project will cover the period from the early sixteenth century until the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1918.


The reconstruction of everyday life and the identity of military society will include:
1. demographic data (birth rates, fertility and mortality rates), migrations and the socio-economic context (age, gender and professional structure) on the basis of muster rolls and other military records, birth and death registers, censuses, land registers, testimonies;
2. the military and war context (military organization and training, partisan or guerrilla warfare and the art of war, images and self-awareness of Croatian soldiers) on the basis of official correspondence, travel books and newspaper articles; and
3. the geo-political context (administrative and legal organization, government transitions) on the basis of maps and official correspondence.

The main research questions that will be considered are:
1. Who constituted the martial society (not only military personnel but also civilians that were indirectly linked with military service) in these Croatian borderlands?
2. What distinctive features did these soldiers have, what were their skills and what reputation did they enjoy?
3. Are there time and space correlations between different parts of these borderlands?

Research will focus on the collection and processing of archival materials (parish records, muster rolls, registers, censuses, land registers, cadastres in Croatian and foreign archives) that – despite their vast volume – have so far been mainly neglected by both domestic and foreign historians and researchers from other disciplines. Considering the contents of these sources research will deal with actual people, their activities and destinies. It will therefore not for the most part concentrate on classic military or war history, but will follow the number and impact of this group within the political and social context of their living environment. The project aims to encourage multidisciplinary cooperation with anthropologists, ethnologists, demographic researchers, sociologists and researchers from other related social and humanist studies.

The educative objective of the project includes lectures on research results, and especially the training of doctoral and postdoctoral students of history, and senior citizens (interested in genealogy, local history etc.) through specialized workshops that focus on acquiring proficiency in specific historical skills, the analysis of archival materials (locating and selecting records, transcription and transliteration), database construction and data entry. Participants that successfully complete the workshop will be given an opportunity to volunteer on the project and assist the research team in the data entering. Similar approaches have been used for the construction of databases in Belgium and Denmark for several years now. Furthermore, in an educative sense, the project research results will be beneficial on a local and regional level as well. Concrete data on the population of these borderlands (e.g. soldiers), their names and surnames, will contribute to a better understanding of micro-regional history (historical demography, etymology) and their wider accessibility will enable the study of comparative processes on a level outside the Croatian framework.

The main project activities are:
1. building a project website, development of database software and data entry by team members and volunteers
2. selection, transcription and transliteration of archival records, creation of a citation inventory of Croatian soldiers in newspapers of the time, organisation of workshops, training and selection of data entry persons
3. organisation of public lectures, national and international conferences, publication of articles and monographs
4. cooperation with cultural historians, historical demographers and researchers from related disciplines, cooperation with local communities, associations and tourist agencies


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