By the eleventh century, the Croatian state – and later its successor, the Hungaro-Croatian kingdom – was successfully challenging both Byzantium and Venice for control of the coast. Increasing numbers of Croats moved into the towns, and Croatian entrenched itself as the popular language, even if Latin was still used in writing. When Ladislas of Naples, during his brief stint as King of Hungary-Croatia, sold his rights to Dalmatia to Venice in 1409, most Dalmatian towns were given a choice – accept Venetian rule peacefully and retain a degree of autonomy, or submit by force. Contrary to Dalmatian expectations, however, the Venetians kept the towns on a short leash, muzzling traditions of municipal government by imposing on each of the cities an all-powerful rector (knez) responsible directly to the doge, and redirecting all import and export trade through Venice. Class divisions within Dalmatian society prevented any concerted opposition to Venetian rule, however, and rebellions were few and far between – the commoners' revolt launched by Matija Ivanić on Hvar in 1510, for instance, was as much against the local oligarchy as the occupying power.
Under the Venetians, Dalmatia was integrated into the wider Mediterranean world more than at any time since the days of the Roman Empire, opening up its cities to Renaissance culture and Italianate architecture. But however many fine loggias and campaniles the Venetians built, it would be a mistake to think that the locals had turned into good Venetians – the urban elite of fifteenth-century Dalmatia clearly saw themselves as Croats, and were keen to develop the local language as a medium fit for their patriotic aspirations. Prime movers were Marko Marulić of Split, whose Judita (Judith) of 1521 was the first ever epic tale "composed in Croatian verse", as its own title page proclaimed; and Petar Zoranić of Zadar, whose novel Planine (Mountains) of 1569 contains a scene in which the nymph Hrvatica (literally "Croatian girl") bemoans the lack of Dalmatians who show pride in their own language.
Venetian political control went largely unchallenged, however, because of the growing threat of the Ottoman Turks. The Venetians did their best to live in peace with the Turks in order to ensure the smooth functioning of trade, although major conflicts - notably the Cyprus War (1570-71) and the Candia War (1645-69) - occasionally brought roving armies to the Dalmatian hinterland. The Ottoman defeat outside Vienna in 1683 finally provided Venice with the opportunity to push the Turks back into Bosnia, but by this stage decades of conflict had changed the make-up of the Dalmatian population, as Croats from the interior had fled to the coast. Much of the hinterland itself had been devastated and repopulated with migrants from the Balkan interior, most of whom were classified as Vlachs (vlah or vlaj in Croatian) - a name which was sometimes applied to the nomadic tribes descended from the original Roman-Illyrian population, at others to all migrant stockbreeders from the interior. More important than the niceties of ethnic distinction, however, was the fact that the majority ofVlachs belonged to the Orthodox faith and, largely because they came under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church, came increasingly to regard themselves as Serbs.
Questions of ethnic identity are further complicated by the fact that the Venetians referred to all inlanders, regardless of who they were, as Morlachs (morlacchi), a term thought to originate in the combination of the name Vlach with the Greek word mavro, meaning "black" or "dark". The Morlach label came to be applied to all the inhabitants of Dalmatia who lived outside the cultured world of the coastal towns and islands and, although the hard life of the Morlachs was romanticized by foreign travellers, they were shunned by the urban population on the coast, who were rarely aware of their existence except at fairs and markets. Until the twentieth century even edu- cated Croats knew little about the hinterlanders, referring to them all morlad, zagord (highlanders) or vlaji (a term still used as a put-down in Split, where anyone who can't see the sea from their house is a vlaj; regardless of where they came from or what religion - Catholic or Orthodox - they professed. For over 350 years Venice gave the Dalmatian towns peace, security and -ultimately - economic and political stagnation. Thfall of the Republic in 1797 was followed by a brief Austrian interregnum fal in 1808, Napoleon incorporated Dalmatia into his Illyrian Provinces, an artificial amalgam of Adriatic and west Slovene territories with its capital at I_jub]jana.The reforming French played an important role in pulling Dalmatia out of its torpor, building roads, promoting trade and opening up the region to modern scientific and educational ideas. There's little evidence that the French were popular, however: their decision to close down the monasteries deeply offended local Catholic feeling, and they also dragged Dalmatia into wars with the Austrians and the British, who occupiedVis in 1811 and shelled Zadar in 1813.
Hopes that Dalmatia would be unified with the rest of the Croatian lands after its incorporation into Austria in 1815 were soon dashed. Instead, Dalmatia became a separate province of the Habsburg Empire, Italian was made the official language, and German- and Italian-speaking bureaucrats were brought in to run the administration. By mid-century Dalmatia had just over 400,000 inhabitants, of whom 340,000 were Slays and only 16,000 were Italians, and yet the first Croatian language schools didn't open until the 1860s.
Still Many Croats living in the coastal towns saw fluency in Italian as a mark of social and cultural superiority, and felt that they had little in common with those from inland. Things began to change in 1848, when the newly formed Croatian Sabor (Parliament) in Zagreb renewed calls for the reunification of Dalmatia with the rest of Croatia. The Viennese court quashed the idea, but could no longer prevent the growth of Croatian national consciousness in the Adriatic towns.
The creation of a Dalmatian Assembly in 1861 opened up a political arena which was dominated by the Narodnjaci (Nationalists), who wanted the reunion of Dalmatia with the historic heartlands of continental Croatia, and the Autoncirriagi (Autonomists), who regarded Dalmatia as a unique cultural entity populated by "Slaw-Dalmatians" rather than Croats. The Au'tonomasi tended to be supported by Italians or Italianized Croats who looked to Italy —which had emerged as a unified kingdom in 1861 — rather than Austria, although the Austrian defeat of an Italian navy off the island ofVis in 1866 put paid to any immediate likelihood that Dalmatia was about to be swallowed up by the new state across the Adriatic. The importance of the Battle ofVis was not lost on the local Croats, who began to celebrate its anniversary with much pomp in order to annoy their Italian neighbours.The Narodnjaci won control of the Dalmatian Assembly in 1870, and Croatian became the official language in the Assembly in 1883, though it wasn't introduced into the civil service or the law courts until 1912.Des ite Italian claims, the whole of Dalmatia except Zadar and Lastovo fell
11 to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (subsequently Yugoslavia) in 1918. However, the threat of Italian irredentism remained strong, especially after Mussolini came to power in 1922. The Italian occupation of Dalmatia between 1941 and 1943 only served to worsen relations between the two communities, and at the war's end most remaining Italians fled.
The advent of socialism in 1945 failed to staunch major emigration to the New World and Australasia. After World War II, the traditional olive-growing and fishing economy of the Adriatic islands and villages was neglected in favour of heavy industry, producing a degree of rural depopulation which has only partly been ameliorated by the growth of tourism. The arrival of package tourists in the 1960s brought Dalmatia hitherto unimagined prosperity (although much of the money earned from tourism went to the big Yugoslav travel companies based in Belgrade), while urban-dwellers from inland cities like Zagreb and Belgrade increasingly aspired to vikendice ("weekend houses") on the coast, changing the profile of the village population and turning the Adriatic into a vast recreation area serving the whole ofYugoslavia.
Many of the holiday homes owned by Serbs ended up being abandoned, sold or blown up by right-wing thugs after the collapse of Yugoslavia, in which Dalmatia suffered as much as anywhere else in Croatia. After securing control of the hinterland areas around Knin and Benkovac, Serbian forces never quite reached the sea - despite attempts to subdue Zadar. Coastal hotels soon filled with refugees, however, and the tourist industry wound down owing to lack of custom. With the resumption of peace, Slovene, Italian and German tourists were quick to return to their former stomping grounds, and by the turn of the century they had been joined by Hungarians, Poles, Czechs and Brits – making Dalmatia one of the most cosmopolitan summer playgrounds in the whole of Europe.