Dominik Mandić

Dominik Mandić

Dominik Mandić (December 2, 1889 - August 23, 1973) was a Bosnian Croat historian and politician, a member of the Franciscan Order. His history books are essential reading for the history of medieval Bosnia and Herzegovina.



Mandić was born in Lise, near the town of Široki Brijeg in Herzegovina. He completed his primary education in Široki Brijeg, where he attended the famous Franciscan high school, but graduated from the last two years in Mostar. He studied theology in Fribourg and obtained his Ph.D. in church history. When he returned to Mostar, he became a teacher of religion in the Mostar state high school. The Franciscan Province of Herzegovina elected him as their head. Although he was invited to teach in Rome, his own province asked him to become the headmaster of the classical high school in Široki Brijeg, which he accepted.

In the period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941), Mandić had some pro-Yugoslavian ideas in the beginning, but he soon sobered, seeing that the state had no future and no place for Croats[citation needed]. In 1939 he was appointed a member of the central administration of the Franciscan Order in Rome as the representative of all the Franciscan provinces in Slavic countries and the chief treasurer of the Order. He was still in Rome when war broke out in his homeland in 1941.

When the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established, he showed little enthusiasm. He believed it was a political act which disregarded the free will of the Croatian people. In the clerical spheres, he talked against the persecutions of Serbs, Roma and Jews, motivated by his Christian and humanist ideals, and asked Croats to refrain from retaliation against Serbs after the chetnik atrocities around Mostar in April 1941.

He realistically estimated that the conditions of the creation of NDH were unfavorable for it to survive in the long term, so he participated as a mediator in several attempts to make contact with the Western Allies since 1942, foreseeing the defeat of the Axis Powers. His mediation was unsuccessful, however. Mandić's influence was more useful in 1945, when he managed to save several hundreds of Croatians escaping the communist terror of the new Yugoslavia and to organize social care for several tens of thousands of refugees. He founded the Croatian press in the refugee camp of Fermo, which printed newspapers and books for Croatian refugees.

Pursuant to the agreement between the Allies and Yugoslavia, a hunt for notable Croats in Italy started in 1946 and 1947. Mandić used the resources of the Order to help dozens of most important Croatian officers (Ustasha) and intellectuals to avoid extradition, which would mean certain death, by providing them with passports for overseas countries, especially Latin America. In 1952 he moved to Chicago, where he became the head of the Herzegovina Franciscans in North America. Mandić spent the rest of his life in Chicago, doing spiritual and scientific work.

Mandić as historian

The greatest part of Mandić's history work was made abroad, especially in the USA. His central interest is medieval Croatian history, which includes today's area of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mandić's work is characterized by meticulous groundwork, skilful use of sources in many languages (along with classical languages, he used Italian, French, Russian, Spanish, English, German, Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak), archivist's patience and precision, as well as a brilliant knowledge of nuances of church history, especially in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For these reasons, his history books are ripe with the data collected by the author from numerous sources, which makes them essential reading for anyone writing about the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the period until the 18th century.

His shortcomings

From today's perspective, the chief shortcomings of Mandić are his lack of modernity and uncritical attitude towards historical sources. While the first weakness can be somewhat justified by the fact that a complete modern history of old Bosnia and Hum has not been written yet, the other objection is more serious.

Mandić was an old-fashioned historian who did not present topics in a multidisciplinary way (archeology, history of art, paleography, historical linguistics, demographic and economic trends, culturological research etc.). Therefore, his opus can be included in the group of older Croatian historians such as with Vjekoslav Klaić or Ferdo Šišić.

What is worse, Mandić's uncritical approach and an almost naïve faith in often contradictory ancient sources (De Administrando Imperio by Constantine VII, Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja, Orbini's writings), and his reliance on questionable texts such as Pacta conventa, made a part of his opus not only obsolete, but also unreliable. Actually, Mandić corrected and sometimes successfully disclosed contradictions in old sources, but only when their claims went against the Croatian national interests. In cases when fantastical claims supported the Croatian point of view, Mandić accepted them unquestioningly.

His importance

Because of his ideological intention to prove the historically Croat nature of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnians, Mandić's opus was often rejected and ignored even in the segments where Mandić is impeccable, i.e. in the reliable and detailed presentation of various aspects of history.

The fact that Dominik Mandić did not simply write a nationally biased history (which would be easy to refute and ridicule) is confirmed by the proscriptions against his work under communist Yugoslavia. Ethnic History of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a major work in his opus, was proscribed; any owner of the book was liable to go to prison. Why such extreme measures? His book included many facts on the Croatian aspects of the old Bosnian state, which was very inconvenient for the promoters of Serbian and Bosniak ambitions in contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although such repression may seem grotesque now, it was by no means unique: Stalinist historians used the same methods, following Orwell's maxim: Who controls the past controls the future.

Dispute with Nada Klaić

Mandić was involved in a dispute with the Croatian historian Nada Klaić and her approach to the early medieval Croatian history in the 1960s. The dispute was covert because Mandić was an anticommunist emigrant. Nada Klaić had the advantage of a modern scientific and multidisciplinary approach and a well-founded critical analysis of historical sources, while Mandić made stronger analyses of church history (a crucial aspect of the Middle Ages).

Two aspects stand out in this wide dispute. Firstly, the superior modern approach of Nada Klaić positively influenced the Croatian historiography as a whole. Secondly, the background of the dispute was a clash between two equally non-scientific positions, the one overplaying (Mandić) and the other downplaying (Klaić) the Croatian aspect, neither of which has managed to become the foundation of Bosnian medieval studies. After Mandić's weakly founded claims (e.g. on the North African origin of Vlachs), Nada Klaić made even weaker claims (e.g. on the arrival of the Croats from Slovenia/Carantania).

Modern Croatian historiography dealing with Bosnia and Herzegovina, exemplified in the works of Pejo Ćošković, Mladen Ančić, Franjo Šanjek, and Pavao Anđelić, mostly accepts the multidisciplinary approach of Nada Klaić, amended with more recent scientific discoveries, but it refutes her national reductionism caused by the communist ideology trying to remove the Croatian aspect of the history of Bosnia and Hum.


  • Hrvati i Srbi, dva stara različita naroda (Croats and Serbs, Two Ancient and Different Peoples)
  • Bogumilska crkva bosanskih krstjana (The Bogumil Church of Bosnian Christians)
  • Crvena Hrvatska (Red Croatia)
  • Državna i vjerska pripadnost sredovječne Bosne i Hercegovine (State and Religion in Medieval Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Etnička povijest Bosne i Hercegovine (Ethnic History of Bosnia and Herzegovina)

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