Croatia in the union with Hungary

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Kingdom of Croatia
Regnum Croatiae
Hrvatska zemlja
In personal union with Kingdom of Hungary
(See historical context section)
Coats of arms of None.svg
1102–1526 Coa Croatia Country History (Fojnica Armorial).svg

Contemporary coat of arms of Croatia

Croatia and Dalmatia in the late 12th century (light green)
Capital Varied through time

Biograd, Nin, Knin, Bihać
Languages Croatian, Latin
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Monarchy
 -  1102–1116 Coloman (first)
 -  1516–1526 Louis II (last)
Ban (Viceroy)
 -  1116 Cledin (first)
 -  1273–1312 Pavao I Šubić (notable)
 -  1525–1526 Ferenc Batthyány (last)
Legislature Sabor
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Coronation of Coloman in Biograd 1102
 -  Battle of Krbava Field 9 September 1493
 -  Battle of Mohács 29 August 1526
Currency Frizatik (12th-13th century)
Banovac (1235-1384)
Today part of  Croatia
 Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Kingdom of Croatia (Latin: Regnum Croatiae; Croatian: Kraljevina Hrvatska), after a period of rule of kings from the Trpimirović and Svetoslavić dynasties and a succession crisis following the death of king Demetrius Zvonimir, entered a union with the Kingdom of Hungary in 1102.[1][2] With the crowning of King Coloman of Hungary as "King of Croatia and Dalmatia" in 1102 in Biograd, the realm passed to the Árpád dynasty until 1301, when the (male) line of the dynasty died out. Then, kings from the Anjou dynasty, who were also cognatic descendants of the Árpád dynasty, ruled the kingdoms. Later centuries were characterized by conflicts with the Mongols, who sacked Zagreb in 1242, competition with Venice for control over Dalmatian coastal cities, and internal warfare among Croatia's nobility. Various powerful nobles emerged in the time period, like Paul I Šubić of Bribir and Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, that secured de facto independence for their realms. The Ottoman incursion into Europe in the 16th century significantly reduced Croatian territories and left the country weak and divided. The last common king was Louis II from the Jagiello dynasty. After his death in 1526 during the Battle of Mohács and a brief period of dynastic dispute, both crowns passed to the Austrian House of Habsburg, and the realms became part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Some of the terms of Coloman's coronation and the later status of the Croatian nobles are detailed in the Pacta Conventa, a document written in the 14th century. The precise terms of this relationship became a matter of dispute in the 19th century; nonetheless, even under dynastic union with Hungary, institutions of separate Croatian statehood were maintained throughout the Sabor (an assembly of Croatian nobles) and the ban (viceroy). In addition, the Croatian nobles retained their lands and titles.[2][3]


The diplomatic name of the kingdom was "Kingdom of Croatia and Dalmatia" (Latin: Regnum Croatiae et Dalmatiae) until 1359 when a plural form "kingdoms" (Latin: regna) came to use.[4][5] The change was a consequence of the victory of Louis I against the Republic of Venice and the Treaty of Zadar, by which the Venetian Republic lost its influence over Dalmatian coastal cities.[4] The Croatian language form of the name was Hrvatska zemlja ("Croatian country" or "Croatian land").[6][7]


Succession crisis[edit]

Demetrius Zvonimir (died 1089) was the King of Croatia of the Svetoslavić branch of the House of Trpimirović. He began as a ban of Slavonia and then as duke of Croatia in the service of Peter Krešimir IV. Peter declared him his heir and, in 1075, Demetrius Zvonimir succeeded to the Croatian throne. Zvonimir married Helen of Hungary from the Árpád dynasty in 1063. Helen was a Hungarian princess, daughter of Béla I, and sister to King Ladislaus I of Hungary. They had a son, Radovan, who died in his late teens or early twenties. After Zvonimir's death, he was succeeded by Stephen II, last of the House of Trpimirović. Stephen's rule was relatively ineffectual and lasted less than two years. He spent most of this time in the tranquility of the monastery of St. Stephen beneath the Pines (Sv. Stjepan pod Borovima) near Split. Stephen II died peacefully at the beginning of 1091, without leaving a heir. Since there was no living male member of the House of Trpimirović, civil war and unrest broke out in Croatia shortly afterward.

The widow of late King Zvonimir, Helen, tried to keep her power in Croatia during the succession crisis.[8] Some Croatian nobles around Helen, possibly the Gusići[9] and/or Viniha from Lapčani family,[8] contesting the succession after the death of Zvonimir, asked King Ladislaus I to help Helen and offered him the Croatian throne, which was seen as rightfully his by inheritance rights. According to some sources, several Dalmatian cities also asked King Ladislaus for assistance, presenting themselves as White Croats on his court.[9] Thus the campaign launched by Ladislaus was not purely a foreign aggression[10] nor did he appear on the Croatian throne as a conqueror, but rather as a successor by heritage rights.[11] In 1091 Ladislaus crossed the Drava river and conquered the entire province of Slavonia without encountering opposition, but his campaign was halted near the Iron Mountains (Mount Gvozd).[12] Since the Croatian nobles were divided, Ladislaus had success in his campaign, yet he wasn't able to establish his control over entire Croatia, although the exact extent of his conquest is not known.[9][10] At this time the Kingdom of Hungary was attacked by the Cumans, who were likely sent by the Byzantium, so Ladislaus was forced to retreat from his campaign in Croatia.[9] Ladislaus appointed his nephew Prince Álmos to administer the controlled area of Croatia, established the diocese of Zagreb as a symbol of his new authority and went back to Hungary. In the midst of the war, Petar Svačić was elected king by Croatian feudal lords in 1093. Petar's seat of power was based in Knin. His rule was marked by a struggle for control of the country with Álmos, who wasn't able to establish his rule and was forced to withdraw to Hungary in 1095.[13]

Death of the Last Croatian King, by Oton Iveković

Ladislaus died in 1095, leaving his nephew Coloman to continue the campaign. Coloman, as well as Ladislaus before him, wasn't seen as a conqueror but rather as a pretender to the Croatian throne.[14] Coloman assembled a large army to press his claim on the throne and in 1097 defeated King Petar's troops in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain, who was killed in battle. Since the Croatians didn't have a leader any more and Dalmatia had numerous fortified towns that would be difficult to defeat, negotiations started between Coloman and the Croatian feudal lords. It took several more years before the Croatian nobles agreed to recognise Coloman as the king. Coloman was crowned in Biograd in 1102 and the title now claimed by Coloman was "King of Hungary, Dalmatia, and Croatia". Some of the terms of his coronation are summarized in Pacta Conventa by which the Croatian nobles agreed to recognise Coloman as king. In return, the 12 Croatian nobles that signed the agreement retained their lands and properties and were granted exemption from tax or tributes. The nobles were to send at least ten armed horsemen each beyond the Drava River at the kings expense if his borders were attacked.[15][16] Despite that Pacta Conventa is not an authentic document from 1102, there was almost certainly some kind of contract or agreement between the Croatian nobles and Coloman which regulated the relations in the same way.[10][2][17]

Historical context[edit]

Coin of Louis II of Hungary with inscription on Latin: "Louis by the grace of God King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia"

In 1102, after a succession crisis, the crown passed into the hands of the Árpád dynasty, with the crowning of King Coloman of Hungary as "King of Croatia and Dalmatia" in Biograd. The precise terms of the union between the two realms became a matter of dispute in the 19th century.[18] The two kingdoms were united under the Árpád dynasty either by the choice of the Croatian nobility or by Hungarian force.[19] Croatian historians hold that the union was a personal one in the form of a shared king, a view also accepted by a number of Hungarian historians,[20][21][22][14][10][23] while Serbian and Hungarian nationalist historians preferred to see it as a form of annexation.[18][24][25] The claim of a Hungarian occupation was made in the 19th century during the Hungarian national reawakening.[25] Thus in older Hungarian historiography Coloman's coronation in Biograd was a subject of dispute and their stance was that Croatia was conquered. Although claims of this kind can also be found today, since the Croatian-Hungarian tensions are gone, it has generally been accepted that Coloman was crowned in Biograd for king.[26] Today, Hungarian legal historians hold that the relationship of Hungary with the area of Croatia and Dalmatia in the period till 1526 and the death of Louis II was most similar to a personal union,[27][23] resembling the relationship of Scotland to England.[28][29]

According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations and the Grand Larousse encyclopédique, Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102, which remained the basis of the Hungarian-Croatian relationship until 1918,[1][30] while Encyclopædia Britannica specified the union as a dynastic one.[2] According to the research of the Library of Congress, Coloman crushed opposition after the death of Ladislaus I and won the crown of Dalmatia and Croatia in 1102, thus forging a link between the Croatian and Hungarian crowns that lasted until the end of World War I.[31] Hungarian culture permeated northern Croatia, the Croatian-Hungarian border shifted often, and at times Hungary treated Croatia as a vassal state. Croatia had its own local governor, or Ban; a privileged landowning nobility; and an assembly of nobles, the Sabor.[31] According to some historians, Croatia became part of Hungary in the late 11th and early 12th century, [32] yet the actual nature of the relationship is difficult to define.[25] Sometimes Croatia acted as an independent agent and at other times as a vassal of Hungary.[25] However, Croatia retained a large degree of internal independence.[25] The degree of Croatian autonomy fluctuated throughout the centuries as did its borders.[33]

The alleged agreement called Pacta conventa (English: Agreed accords) or Qualiter (first word of the text) is today viewed as a 14th-century forgery by most modern Croatian historians. According to the document King Coloman and the twelve heads of the Croatian nobles made an agreement, in which Coloman recognised their autonomy and specific privileges. Although it is not an authentic document from 1102, nonetheless there was at least a non-written agreement that regulated the relations between Hungary and Croatia in approximately the same way,[2][10] while the content of the alleged agreement is concordant with the reality of rule in Croatia in more than one respect.[34]

The official entering of Croatia into a personal union with Hungary, becoming part of the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen, had several important consequences. Institutions of separate Croatian statehood were maintained with the Sabor (parliament) and the ban (viceroy)[2] in the name of the king. A single ban governed all Croatian provinces until 1225, when the authority was split between one ban of the whole of Slavonia and one ban of Croatia and Dalmatia. The positions were intermittently held by the same person after 1345, and officially merged back into one by 1476.

Geography and administrative organization[edit]

Southeastern Europe in 1401

The Kingdom of Croatia was bounded to the west by the Dalmatian coast (from the headland of the Kvarner Gulf in the north to the mouth of the Neretva in the south), bounded to the east by the courses of the Vrbas and Neretva, to the south by the lower Neretva, and to the north by the Gvozd Mountain and river Kupa.[35][36] The territory between Dalmatia and the Neretva, western Hum, was not always in Croatia's possession. It was ruled by a deputy for the king, a governor called a ban. After the succession of Emeric in 1196, his younger brother Andrew II became Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia in 1198. Thus from 1198 Croatia and Slavonia were under the Dukes of Croatia, who ran their duchy, still known as the Kingdom of Croatia, as independent rulers. Under the duke there also stood a ban who was usually a major nobleman, sometimes of Croatian origin and sometimes of Hungarian. The territory under ban's rule was divided in 1225 between two bans: the Ban of Croatia and Dalmatia and the Ban of Slavonia. The territory of Croatia was divided into counties (Croatian: županije), each under a count (župan). The Croatian counts were local nobles in hereditary succession ruling as they had before 1102, under the customary law of Croatia.[36]


Struggle with Venice and Byzantium[edit]

Siege of Zadar in 1202 by the Crusaders and Venetians

By 1107 King Coloman controlled most of former Byzantine coastal cities in Dalmatia. Since those cities were important, Hungarians and Croats often fought with Venice and Byzantine Empire for the region.[37] In 1116, after the death of Coloman, Venice attacked the Dalmatian coast, defeated the army of Croatian Ban Cledin and seized Biograd, Split, Trogir, Šibenik, Zadar and several islands. King Stephen II, Coloman's successor, unsuccessfully tried to regain the lost cities in 1117, although the Doge of Venice Ordelafo Faliero was killed in a battle near Zadar. A five-year truce was signed, confirming the status quo. In 1124 Stephen II again attacked the Venetian holdings and regained Biograd, Split, Šibenik and Trogir, but Zadar and the islands remained under Venetian control. However, in 1125 Doge Domenico Michele reconquered those cities and razed Biograd. In 1131 Béla II succeeded to the throne and in 1133 won back the lost cities except Zadar.[38][39] In 1167 a part of Croatia south of Krka River, as well as Bosnia, was conquered by the Byzantines and remained under their control until the death of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos in 1180, when the Byzantine Empire acquiesced the acquired lands. After 1180 area under the administration of ban increased, but his domain and scope of activities were not yet fully formulated.[40]

Following the death of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos the Byzantine Empire was no longer able to maintain its power consistently in Dalmatia. Soon Zadar rebbeled against Venice and became a constant battleground until 1202 when, during the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians under Doge Enrico Dandolo and the Crusaders sacked Zadar (Zara), despite the fact that King Emeric I pledged himself to join the Crusade. It was the first attack against a Catholic city by the Crusaders. Venice demanded this as a compensation for their transport further east towards Constantinople, where they later founded the Latin Empire.[38] Hostilities with Venice continued until 1216 during the reign of King Andrew II, who used the Venetian fleet to join the Fifth Crusade.[41]

Feudalisation and relations between nobles[edit]

In the 12th century, under the infuence of the feudal system that flourished in medieval Europe and prevailed in Hungary and Croatia, a layer of powerfull noble families was formed in Croatia.[42] Those families were mostly descendans of the original twelve noble Croatian tribes. Nobility created by the monarchs or based upon royal service never existed in Croatia.[43] Those nobles held and administred whole counties, presided over local courts and enforced their decisions, therefore local population was entirely separated from any state organisation.[44] Most prominent Croatian noble families of the 12th and early 13th century were the House of Šubić (or Princes of Bribir), divided among various branches of the family and ruling over inland Dalmatia with their seat in Bribir; the Babonići in western Slavonia and along the right bank of the Kupa River; the Kačići between the Cetina and Neretva rivers with their seat in Omiš, known for practicing piracy; and the House of Frankopan (then known as the Princes of Krk), ruling over the island of Krk, Kvarner and the County of Modruš in northern Lika. Besides these main noble families there were other less powerful ones, such as the families of Gusić, Mogorović, Kukar, Lapčan and Tugomirić.[45][46]

During this period and as result of the Second Crusade (1145–1149), the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller gained considerable property and assets in Croatia. The first grants in favor of the Christian orders were given by Ban Borić from Slavonia, who was at the time ban of Bosnia. By the end of the 12th century the Templars had possesions in Vrana, Senj, Nova Ves near Zagreb, etc.[47]

In 1221 a war broke out between Domald, who was then Prince of Split and Count of Cetina, and the Šubić family over the ownership of Split. The citizens of Split expelled Domald and elected Višan Šubić from Zvonigrad near Knin as their prince. Although the Šubić family was victorious, another war started among its members, George Šubić of Bribir and Višan. George of Bribir won, executed Višan and took his lands, thus securing supremacy in the Šubić family.[46]

Croatia and Slavonia remained decentralized under local nobles throughout the 13th century, unlike the Hungarian nobles that rebelled against King Andrew II. The King was forced to issue a golden bull in 1222 defining the rigths of the Hungarian nobility and granting them privileges such as tax exemption and the right to disobey the King. The Croatian nobles already enjoyed most of the privileges that Andrew II granted.[46]

The later kings sought to restore their influence by giving certain privileges to the towns, making them Royal Boroughs or Free Royal Towns, which the kings defended from the feudal lords in return for the town's support.

Mongol invasion[edit]

During the rule of Béla IV the Mongols (or Tatars), having conquered Kiev and south Russia, invaded Hungary in 1241. In the Battle of Mohi on the Sajo River on 11 April 1241 the Mongols wiped out the Hungarian army.[48] Coloman, brother of King Bela, was severely wounded and was taken south to Croatia, where he died of his wounds. Batu Khan sent his cousin Kadan with an army of 10,000-20,000 to pursue King Bela, who fled to Croatia. [49]

In 1242 the Mongols crossed the Drava river and started plundering the Slavonian counties of Požega and Križevci. They sacked the towns of Čazma and Zagreb, whose cathedral was burned.[50] The nobility, together with King Bela, moved south to the fortress of Klis, Split, Trogir and the surrounding islands. [51] In March 1242 the Mongols were near Split and started attacking Klis, since they thought King Bela, who was at the time in Trogir, was hiding there, but failed to capture its fortress.[50]

Soon came the news of the death of Ögedei Khan in Karakorum. To be in on the action of electing a new khan, the Mongols turned back. One group returned east through Zeta, Serbia, and Bulgaria, all of which were looted as they passed through, while the second one plundered the area of Dubrovnik and burned the town of Kotor.[48][51]

After the Mongols left Croatia its land were devastated and a huge famine broke out. The invasion of Mongols shoved that only fortified cities can provide protection against them. Since the Mongols still held much of Eastern Europe, King Bela started building a defence system, making new fortifications and reinforcing or repairing existing ones.[51] The fortified town of Medvedgrad was built on the Medvednica mountain above Zagreb, as well as Garić, Lipovac, Okić, Kalnik, etc.[51] In 16 November 1242 the king issued a Golden Bull to the citizens of Gradec (today part of Zagreb), by which it was poclaimed a free royal city.

Dynastic struggles and the Šubić family[edit]

Seal of Paul I Šubić of Bribir, "Paulus de Breberio banus Croatorum Dominus et Bosnae".

The princes of Bribir from the Šubić family became particularly influential during the time of Pavao Šubić Bribirski (1272–1312) who asserted control over large parts of Dalmatia, Slavonia and Bosnia during an internal conflict between the Árpád and Anjou dynasties. Later, however, the Anjouvines intervened and scattered the Šubić and Babonić (1322 ad) families across the country (an important offspring being the Zrinski family). During that time, Angevian kings won full control over Slavonia and Croatia.

The reign of Louis the Great (1342–1382) is considered the golden age of Croatian medieval history.[52] Hungarian power was restored in Dalmatia in 1358 AD by the Treaty of Zadar. Later, in 1409, in the time of King Sigismund I Luxembourg, this province was sold to the Republic of Venice.

Ottoman wars[edit]

As the Turkish incursion into Europe started, Croatia was once again a border area between two major forces in the Balkans. While Croats under Italian Franciscan priest fra John Capistrano and the Hungarian Generalissimo John Hunyadi contributed to the Christian victory over the Ottomans in the Siege of Belgrade of 1456, they suffered a major defeat in the Battle of Krbava field (in Lika, Croatia) in 1493 and gradually lost increasing amounts of territory to the Ottoman Empire.

Pope Leo X called Croatia the forefront of Christianity (Antemurale Christianitatis) in 1519, given that several Croatian soldiers made significant contributions to the struggle against the Turks. Among them there were ban Petar Berislavić who won a victory at Dubica on the Una river in 1513, the captain of Senj and prince of Klis Petar Kružić, who defended the Klis Fortress for almost 25 years, captain Nikola Jurišić who deterred by a magnitude larger Turkish force on their way to Vienna in 1532, or ban Nikola Šubić Zrinski who helped save Pest from occupation in 1542 and fought in the Battle of Szigetvar in 1566.

The 1526 Battle of Mohács was a crucial event in which the rule of the Jagiellon dynasty was shattered by the death of King Louis II. The defeat emphasized the overall inability of the Christian feudal military to halt the Ottomans, who would remain a major threat for centuries. The Croatian historical narrative insists that the decision to join the Habsburg Empire was the result of a free choice made by the Sabor.[25] Austrian historians never claimed they conquered Croatia by force and there appears to be little reason to doubt Croatian claims about the events of 1526.[53]

Union after Battle of Mohács[edit]

The 1526 Battle of Mohács and the death of King Louis II meant the end of Hungarian authority over Croatia. Hungarian parliament elected John Zápolya as new king of Hungary in 1526. A separate Hungarian assembly elected Ferdinand Habsburg. The Croatian parliament unanimously elected Ferdinand of Austria as King of Croatia while at Cetin on January 1, 1527.[54] Following a dynastic dispute between Ferdinand and Zápolya, a few years afterwards both crowns would again be united in Habsburgs' hands and union would be restored.

The Ottoman Empire further expanded in the 16th century to include most of Slavonia, western Bosnia and Lika.

Later in the same century, Croatia became so weak that its parliament authorized Ferdinand to carve out large areas of Croatia and Slavonia adjacent to the Ottoman Empire for the creation of the Military Frontier (Croatian: Vojna Krajina, German: Militärgrenze) which will be ruled directly from Vienna military headquarters.[55] The area became rather deserted and was subsequently settled by Serbs, Vlachs, Croats, Germans and others. As a result of their compulsory military service to the Habsburg Empire during the wars with the Ottoman Empire, the population in the Military Frontier was free of serfdom and enjoyed much political autonomy, unlike the population living in the parts ruled by the King.

After the Bihać fort finally fell in 1592, only small parts of Croatia remained unconquered. The Ottoman army was successfully repelled for the first time on the territory of Croatia following the battle of Sisak in 1593. The lost territory was mostly restored, but large parts of it remained part of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By the 1700s, the Ottoman Empire was driven out of Hungary, and Austria brought the empire under central control. Queen Maria Theresa was supported by the Croatians in the War of Austrian Succession of 1741–1748 and she subsequently made significant contributions to Croatian matters.

With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, its possessions in eastern Adriatic became subject to a dispute between France and Austria. By 1815, the Habsburgs secured them, and Dalmatia and Istria became part of the empire, though they became part of Cisleithania while Croatia and Slavonia were under Hungary.

Croatian romantic nationalism emerged in the mid-19th century to counteract the apparent Germanization and Magyarization of Croatia. The Illyrian movement attracted a number of influential figures from the 1830s on, and produced some important advances in Croatian language and culture.

In the Revolutions of 1848 Croatia, driven by fear of Magyar nationalism, supported the Habsburg court against Hungarian revolutionary forces. However, despite the contributions of its ban Jelačić in quenching the Hungarian war of independence, Croatia, not treated any more favourably by Vienna than the Hungarians themselves, lost its domestic autonomy. In 1867 the Dual Monarchy was created; Croatian autonomy was restored in 1868 with the Croatian–Hungarian Agreement which, although not particularly favourable to the Croatians, recognised Croatia as a state within the Kingdom of Hungary.

Coat of arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Croatia in the 14th and 15th century

The first known coat of arms representing Croatia, dating back to the 12th century, was a golden six-pointed star over a silver crescent moon, found on a frizatik from Andrew II. In the 14th and 15th centuries the modern-day coat of arms of Dalmatia, three crowned leopard or lion heads on a blue or red shield, was used to represent the Kingdom of Croatia, as mentioned in numerous armorials of the time (Gelre Armorial, Constance Council Armorial or Wernigerode Armorial). It was also located on coins and seals of the kings, like the great seal of Matthias Corvinus and on the coa of Louis I. The checkerboard came to use in the late 15th century, and by early 16th century it was the official one in Croatia. It consisted mostly of five rows of five interlocking silver and red squares.[56] It also represented Croatia on the Battle of Mohács as a military flag.[57]

See also[edit]

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  49. ^ Thomas J. Craughwell:The Rise and Fall of the Second Largest Empire in History: How Genghis Khan's Mongols Almost Conquered the World, 2010, p. 200, 204
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  51. ^ a b c d Ferdo Šišić, Povijest Hrvata; pregled povijesti hrvatskog naroda 600. - 1918., Zagreb, p. 196-198 ISBN 953-214-197-9
  52. ^ Zrinka Pešorda Vardić: The crown, the king and the town – the relation of Dubrovnik community toward the crown and the ruler in the beginning of movement against the Court (Croatian Institute of History)
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  55. ^ Charles W. Ingrao:The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815 page 15
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  57. ^ Győző Somogyi: Magyar hadizászlók, Budapest, 2011, p. 41

Further reading[edit]