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Bližike or an Institute of Collective Responsibility before the Criminal Court of Dubrovnik in the Eighteenth Century

Ana Prohaska
Ida Gamulin orcid id
Irena Ipšić orcid id

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 417 Kb

str. 195-226

preuzimanja: 409



One of the ways in which the government of Dubrovnik acted towards maintaining legal and public order was the system of collective responsibility (Cro. bližike, It. vicinanza). In the criminal offences of mainly property nature (crop damage, theft etc.) and if the offender was unknown, the owner of the damaged property, with an intent to have his loss indemnified, would raise a claim against the bližike―that is, smaller territorial communities of the neighbours or fellowvillagers whose property was in the vicinity or bordered with those on which the damage was committed. This institute was commonly applied in the outlying areas, but not throughout the whole territory of the Republic (Lastovo and Mljet were exempt from this practice). The research sample is based on the claims (Lamenta del Criminale) and verdicts (Criminalia) of the Criminal Court of Dubrovnik through three periods: 1711-1720, 1751-1760 and 1791-1800, including a total of 827 procedures against bližike (8.85% of all criminal offences). The number of cases tended to increase over time, the end of the century being marked by a sharp rise of 123.23% in relation to the mid-century period. This rapid increase correlates with a general downward trend in serious criminal offences and a growing share of petty crime proceedings before the Criminal Court, which might be accounted by more favourable economic and social conditions. Considering that the Criminal Court allowed a several months’ time limit for the bližike to report the actual perpetrator, the procedures were exceptionally lengthy. The fact that verdicts had been passed in 109 cases only (13.18%) may lead to a conclusion that the cases were most commonly resolved out of court by means of settlement. The institute of collective responsibility was known in the Middle Ages and early modern period in many European areas (Dalmatia, Italy etc.), as well as in the Ottoman Empire. It was a practical solution for any community lacking special institutions and methods for the investigation of crime, but relied on popular collaboration in revealing and pursuing the offenders. As elsewhere, collective responsibility in the Dubrovnik Republic represented an instrument which protected crops and private property against negligent cattle owners or unscrupulous thieves. In addition, its purpose was to encourage the farmers to prevent any similar criminal offences in their area and thus avoid being held responsible for them. On the one hand, the institute was established with an aim to compensate damage from those reasonably assumed to have committed a crime or who had some knowledge about it, and on the other, it helped strengthen social control, the feeling of responsibility and a sense of common benefit.

Ključne riječi

collective responsibility, bližike, Criminal Court, criminal procedure, Dubrovnik, 18th century

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Podaci na drugim jezicima: hrvatski

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