Radmila Pejić

Institute for Balkan Studies

Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts


Herbert Vivian

A British Traveller in Late Nineteenth-Century Serbia

Beautiful Servia! my soul will always linger

amid the rapture of thy purple hills.

(H. Vivian, Brighton, Michaelmas Day 1897)

Abstract: The famous British journalist and author Herbert Vivian (1865–1940) visited Serbia twice (1896 and 1903). On his first visit he stayed for several months in order to research into everyday life, customs, political situation and economic potentials of Serbia, which were little known to the British public. His famous book Servia. The Poor Man’s Paradise (1896) was a major contribution to British travel writing about Serbia with its in-depth analysis and rather objective portrayal of the country‘s political system, religious practices and economic situation. He was convinced that his book would have an effect on the British attitude towards Serbia by drawing attention of British high society to this country. Vivian was highly impressed by the simple life of Serbian peasants, an idealised self-sufficient social group that was satisfied with the land they tilled. After the 1903 regicide, Vivian, an admirer of the late King Alexander Obrenović became disappointed with Serbia’s elite, but remained enchanted with the simple life of Serbian peasants. This article analyses the accuracy of his account and provides a fresh insight into Vivian’s attitude towards Serbia.

Keywords: Serbia, nineteenth century, Herbert Vivian, British public opinion, travel writing, Serbian society, Serbian peasantry