The Croats had established a settlement on Silba most probably in the 8th century already. They were in the first place cattle-breeders, havingthe obligation to give one-fourth of their cattle-breeding and agricultural products to the Zadar noblemen, whose colonists they were.
From the middle of the 16th century there began their shiping orientation. The following were the factors that excersised their influence in that field: shipping exeriences gained through fishing activities, the position of the island along the ancient sailing route Zadar - Venice and the possession of suitable coves for the accommodation of smaller craft. The first known owner and leader of ships of short and long coasting was Juraj Vinturic, and the first captain Grgur Matkovic.
The shipping and navigation orientation was the result of own strength and abilities. The 18th century constitutes a period of strengthening of Silba's shipping.In the first decades of that century the most prominent shipping owner was Antun Vinturic. He had raised a votive foundation - St. Marko's Church.
In the middle of the same century the brothers Toma, Simun and Matij Pavlina were also prominent shipowners. The latter two are responsible for establishing the Franciscan Monastery with a Church of St. Mary of Karmel. In the course of 17th century there were, besides sailors, 40 shipowners and captains. In the middle of the same century the brothers Toma, Simun and Matij Pavlina were also prominent shipowners.
The latter two are responsible for establishing the Franciscan Monastery with a Church of St. Mary of Karmel. In the course of 17th century there were, besides sailors, 40 shipowners and captains. The 18th century in the period of rise of Silba's shipping affairs. The predominating affairs of this period was the transport of small and big cattle from Zadar to Venice.
The transport ships for cattle were called "manzere" (ital. manzo - ox) and "kastere" (ital. castrato - ram). The "manzere" were of the following types: fregadones, marzilianes, trabacules and peliges. In the course of the 18th century Silba had over 200 influential shipowners and captains with over 150 sailing vessels for short and long coasting, with a total of about 20,000 tons of carrying capacity.
In the mentioned time period the island of Silba ranked first in the shipping affairs in the Zadar area, and it occupied a prominent position on our coast generally.
The prosperity of Silba in the 18th century was the result not only of a well-developed shipping but also of other, although secondary, economic branches. These branches of economy were in the first place cattle-breeding and wine-growing. his prosperity led to an intensive building acitivity (of dwelling and sacral structures). In the 18th century Silba was called "Small Venice". Favourable material circumstances led to a cultural prosperity. Thus, from the middle of the 18th century, the majority of men were literate.
Even during life the sailors raised sacral objects and willed amounts of money for charity purposes. They also decorated their churches and homes with valuable pictures. Preserved are three altar picures by the Venetian painter Carlo Ridolfi, and four pictures on wooden altars by Tizian's successors.
The occupation of Dalmatia in 1806 by Napoleon, the continental blockade and the piratical war in the Adriatic reduced Silba's shipping to nothingness. The advent and competition of ships of the Austrian Lloyd and steamers of other companies defeated altogether Silba's shipping. The Silba sailors went over to steamships in masses, either as common sailors or officers and many of them emigrated to South and North America.