From 1211 until its loss to the Ottomans in 1669, the Greek
island we know as Crete was the Venetian colony of Candia. Ruled by
a paid civil service fully accountable to the Venetian Senate,
Candia was distinct from nearly every other colony of the medieval
period for the unprecedented degree to which the colonial power was
involved in its governance.
Yet, for Sally McKee, the importance of the Cretan colony only
begins with the anomalous manner of the Venetian state's rule.
Uncommon Dominion tells the story of Venetian Crete, the
home of two recognizably distinct ethnic communities, the Latins
and the Greeks. The application of Venetian law to the colony made
it possible for the colonial power to create and maintain a fiction
of ethnic distinctness. The Greeks were subordinate to the Latins
economically, politically, and juridically, yet within a century of
Venetian colonization, the ethnic differences between Latin and
Greek Cretans in daily material life were significantly blurred.
Members of the groups intermarried, many of them learned each
other's language, and some even chose to worship by the rites of
the other's church. Holding up ample evidence of acculturation and
miscegenation by the colony's inhabitants, McKee uncovers the
colonial forces that promoted the persistence of ethnic labeling
despite the lack of any clear demarcation between the two
predominant communities. As McKee argues, the concept of ethnic
identity was largely determined by gender, religion, and social
status, especially by the Latin and Greek elites in their complex
and frequently antagonistic social relationships.
Drawing expertly from notarial and court records, as well as
legislative and literary sources, Uncommon Dominion offers
a unique study of ethnicity in the medieval and early modern
periods. Students and scholars in medieval, colonial, and
postcolonial studies will find much of use in studying this
remarkable colonial experiment.
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