The colonate was a long-term system of sharecropping widely used on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, especially in Dalmatia. It was a private-law relationship between a landowner and a tenant, who was usually a peasant with hereditary character, and it was similar to other forms of sharecropping across the Mediterranean. This paper argues the colonate was not a rigid system that directly reflected social and economic hierarchies, as it has often been described, but that both landowners and tenants entered into the agreement with the ability to make rational economic calculations. The second part of the paper focuses on the process of abolishing the colonate after World War I. To gain support from peasants, who represented 79 percent of the total population, the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes announced the implementation of comprehensive agrarian reform in 1919, which included the dissolution of all traditional agrarian relations and the allocation of land to landless peasants. Unlike in other parts of the Kingdom, however, this policy was only slowly implemented in Dalmatia as the government was unwilling to put it into practice. They supported Dalmatian landowners, many of whom were members of the governing parties and who sought to delay the implementation of the reform. In the end, the colonate was the only traditional agrarian relation not completely abolished during the interwar period. It was only phased out after the end of World War II.

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