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Synopsis

Distinguished scholar James D. Tracy shows how the Ottoman advance across Europe stalled in the western Balkans, where three great powers confronted one another in three adjoining provinces: Habsburg Croatia, Ottoman Bosnia, and Venetian Dalmatia. Until about 1580, Bosnia was a platform for Ottoman expansion, and Croatia steadily lost territory, while Venice focused on protecting the Dalmatian harbors vital for its trade with the Ottoman east. But as Habsburg-Austrian elites coalesced behind military reforms, they stabilized Croatia’s frontier, while Bosnia shifted its attention to trade, and Habsburg raiders crossing Dalmatia heightened tensions with Venice. The period ended with a long inconclusive war between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and a brief inconclusive war between Austria and Venice. Based on rich primary research and a masterful synthesis of key studies, this book is the first English-language history of the early modern Western Balkans. More broadly, it brings out how the Ottomans and their European rivals conducted their wars in fundamentally different ways. A sultan’s commands were not negotiable, and Ottoman generals were held to a time-tested strategy for conquest. Habsburg sovereigns had to bargain with their elites, and it took elaborate processes of consultation to rally provincial estates behind common goals. In the end, government-by-consensus was able to withstand government-by-command.

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