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Homicides Committed within the Family in the Republic of Dubrovnik (1667-1806)

Nenad Vekarić

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 290 Kb

str. 95-155

preuzimanja: 1.901



Each homicide committed within the family is a case for itself, for the causes and circumstances of its occurrence are far from predictable. A direct relationship established between the number of homicides and social layout, type of family structure, vicinity of the border, the uneven seasonal and monthly distribution of crime and the notable disproportion in homicides in terms of gender, points to the fact that, aside from the most direct causes of crime, there exist a number of variables beyond the individual offender which are governed by the general social moment. Having analyzed 185 cases of homicide within the family in the Republic of Dubrovnik in the period between the great earthquake in 1667 and the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic in 1806, the following has been established: 1) Homicides committed within the family follow the overall homicide rate. There is no essential disproportion of these particular crimes with regard to different time periods. 2) There exists a most prominent correlation between homicide within the family and the general social circumstances. In times of economic depression, the number of homicides increases, and contrarily, in periods of prosperity, it drops. 3) As the size of a population is likely to increase in times of economic prosperity and decrease in times of depression, it can be ascertained that the number of homicides within the family (and homicides in general) stands in inverse proportion to the size of the population. With a rise in population, the number of homicides falls; with a decline in population, the number of homicides increases. 4) The number of homicides within the family correlates with the type of family structure. In communities where nuclear families prevail (i.e., cities or islands), the number of homicides within the family is smaller than in rural communities where the predominent family type is the extended family. 5) The type of family relationship between the murderer and victim also depends on the type of family structure. In communities that mainly consist of nuclear families, the participants in homicides are confined to either of the spouses, parents and children. In communities where the extended family type is prevailed, the relationship between the participants in such crimes varies to a greater degree, and potentially includes a wider kinship group. 6) The motives for murder are also closely related to the type of family structure. In communities in which the nuclear family is the norm, homicides are most often initiated by intolerance whereas in village communities, which tend to the extended family structure, the homicides are most frequently committed on account of unsettled ownership matters. 7) Closeness to the border of the Republic and its hostile hinterland are noted to be causes of an increased number of homicides within the family. Tension along the border and frequent skirmishes contributed not only to the rise of murders between the natives and subjects of neighboring states, but also engendered a number of changes in the internal state of affairs including family organization.The Dubrovnik sample illustrates this fact quite well: the proportion of homicides within the family in all the border areas (Konavle, Župa and Rijeka dubrovačka, Dubrovačko primorje) was greater as compared with their share of the population. The regions which were not close to the border (Pelješac, the Dubrovnik islands, the city of Dubrovnik itself) experienced an inverse proportion. 8) Seasonal variations in the number of homicides within the family has been established. This is most pronounced in the case of infanticide, which most commonly occurred in the wintertime, as the majority of the murdered illegitimate babies were conceieved in spring. As with other homicides committed within the family, the correlation is somewhat weaker, but there is a slight rise in homicides comitted during the gloomy winter and autumn months as opposed to spring and summer. December is recorded as having five times as many murders than April. 9) Infanticide was more common in the urban and island communities than rural settings. An urban nuclear family could more easily cover up unwanted pregnancy and post delivery symptoms than could the extended fam ilies of rural areas. Therefore, the majority of the undetected infanticides stemmed from the urban area of Dubrovnik. Rural families seem to have been more homogenous in their moral behavioral patterns than their urban counterparts, and sanctions for such a crime in village communities were far more serious. 10) The method of homicide depended on the character of the crime and the murderer.s gender. Weapons were most commonly used in premeditated murders, while blunt objects that happened to be on hand at the time were used in «reckless» murders. Men tended to use the knife as a murder weapon, and women poison. 11) The fact that males made up the majority offenders and more females were victims of homicide within the family in cases other than those pertaining to property disputes (families being organized on the basis of male dominance in which male heads were the bearers and protectors of family interests) proves easy to establish that women were the inferior sex in any type of family structure existing in the Republic of Dubrovnik.

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