Emir O. Filipović, Force Majeure, Act of God or Natural Disaster? Ottoman Military Threat as a Cause for Exemption from Contractual Liability During the Conquest of the Balkans

Emir O. Filipović - University of Sarajevo
pp. 157-174
Online publication date: 
Ottoman Empire; Albania; Serbia; Bosnia; Ragusa (Dubrovnik); caravan trade; contractual liability

By the late fourteenth century unpredictable Ottoman raids on the territories of Albania, Serbia and Bosnia became a regular occurrence and precautions were usually taken in order to avert or limit potential damage of any kind. This was often expressed in written contracts in which the Ottoman threat, “fear of the Turks”, or even news about their imminent arrival were used as justification to look for shelter where people and goods could be safe until the danger passed. In certain cases, these unavoidable and inevitable incidences essentially released the interested parties from contractual liability and obligation. This paper examines such instances in which Ottoman military threat was presented as a “higher force”, a punishment from God and even as something resembling a “natural disaster”, essentially serving as an effective exemption clause which excluded coverage for the caused damage.