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This updated edition of Noel Malcolm's highly-acclaimed Bosnia: A Short History provides the reader with the most comprehensive narrative history of Bosnia in the English language. Malcolm examines the different religious and ethnic inhabitants of Bosnia, a land of vast cultural upheaval where the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians overla This updated edition of Noel Malcolm's highly-acclaimed Bosnia: A Short History provides the reader with the most comprehensive narrative history of Bosnia in the English language. Malcolm examines the different religious and ethnic inhabitants of Bosnia, a land of vast cultural upheaval where the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians overlapped. Clarifying the various myths that have clouded the modern understanding of Bosnia's past, Malcolm brings to light the true causes of the country's destruction. This expanded edition of Bosnia includes a new epilogue by the author examining the failed Vance-Owen peace plan, the tenuous resolution of the Dayton Accords, and the efforts of the United Nations to keep the uneasy peace. What went wrong in the country where Christians and Muslims mingled and tolerated each other for over five centuries? It was a land with a vibrant political and cultural history, unlike any other in Europe, where great powers and religions-the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans; the faiths of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam overlapped and combined. In this first English-language history of Bosnia, Noel Malcolm provides a narrative chronicle of the country from its beginnings to its tragic end. Clarifying the various myths that have clouded the modern understanding of Bosnia's past, Malcolm brings to light the true causes of the country's destruction: the political strategy of the Serbian leadership, the conflict between the city and the countryside, the fatal inaction and miscalculations of Western politicians. Putting the Bosnia war into perspective, this volume celebrates the complex history of a country whose past, as well as its future, has been all but erased. At last, here is the guide for the general reader seeking a comprehensive and accessible account of the war in the former Yugoslavia. Table of Contents A Note on Names and Pronunciations Maps Introduction 1. Races, myths and origins: Bosnia to 1180 2. The medieval Bosnian state, 1180-1463 3. The Bosnian Church 4. War and the Ottoman system, 1463-1606 5. The Islamicization of Bosnia 6. Serbs and Vlachs 7. War and politics in Ottoman Bosnia, 1606-1815 8. Economic life, culture and society in Ottoman Bosnia, 1606-1815 9. The Jews and the Gypsies of Bosnia 10. Resistance and reform, 1815-1878 11. Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian rule, 1878-1914 12. War and the kingdom: Bosnia 1914-1941 13. Bosnia and the second world war, 1941-1945 14. Bosnia in Titoist Yugoslavia, 1945-1989 15. Bosnia and the death of Yugoslavia: 1989-1992 16. The destruction of Bosnia: 1992-1993 Notes Glossary Bibliography Index


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This updated edition of Noel Malcolm's highly-acclaimed Bosnia: A Short History provides the reader with the most comprehensive narrative history of Bosnia in the English language. Malcolm examines the different religious and ethnic inhabitants of Bosnia, a land of vast cultural upheaval where the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians overla This updated edition of Noel Malcolm's highly-acclaimed Bosnia: A Short History provides the reader with the most comprehensive narrative history of Bosnia in the English language. Malcolm examines the different religious and ethnic inhabitants of Bosnia, a land of vast cultural upheaval where the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians overlapped. Clarifying the various myths that have clouded the modern understanding of Bosnia's past, Malcolm brings to light the true causes of the country's destruction. This expanded edition of Bosnia includes a new epilogue by the author examining the failed Vance-Owen peace plan, the tenuous resolution of the Dayton Accords, and the efforts of the United Nations to keep the uneasy peace. What went wrong in the country where Christians and Muslims mingled and tolerated each other for over five centuries? It was a land with a vibrant political and cultural history, unlike any other in Europe, where great powers and religions-the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans; the faiths of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam overlapped and combined. In this first English-language history of Bosnia, Noel Malcolm provides a narrative chronicle of the country from its beginnings to its tragic end. Clarifying the various myths that have clouded the modern understanding of Bosnia's past, Malcolm brings to light the true causes of the country's destruction: the political strategy of the Serbian leadership, the conflict between the city and the countryside, the fatal inaction and miscalculations of Western politicians. Putting the Bosnia war into perspective, this volume celebrates the complex history of a country whose past, as well as its future, has been all but erased. At last, here is the guide for the general reader seeking a comprehensive and accessible account of the war in the former Yugoslavia. Table of Contents A Note on Names and Pronunciations Maps Introduction 1. Races, myths and origins: Bosnia to 1180 2. The medieval Bosnian state, 1180-1463 3. The Bosnian Church 4. War and the Ottoman system, 1463-1606 5. The Islamicization of Bosnia 6. Serbs and Vlachs 7. War and politics in Ottoman Bosnia, 1606-1815 8. Economic life, culture and society in Ottoman Bosnia, 1606-1815 9. The Jews and the Gypsies of Bosnia 10. Resistance and reform, 1815-1878 11. Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian rule, 1878-1914 12. War and the kingdom: Bosnia 1914-1941 13. Bosnia and the second world war, 1941-1945 14. Bosnia in Titoist Yugoslavia, 1945-1989 15. Bosnia and the death of Yugoslavia: 1989-1992 16. The destruction of Bosnia: 1992-1993 Notes Glossary Bibliography Index

30 review for Bosnia: A Short History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Kelleher

    Much of what goes by "history" in the Balkans is actually myth, generated and repeated by the regional tribes to serve their chauvinistic purposes. The serious historian will necessarily clash with those treasured myths. Malcolm is a serious historian. When published in 1994, in the middle of the war, this book was Malcolm's herald to an uncomprehending world. He had the fortitude to state up front that he believed the Serbians were primarily responsible for the destruction of Bosnia. For this, h Much of what goes by "history" in the Balkans is actually myth, generated and repeated by the regional tribes to serve their chauvinistic purposes. The serious historian will necessarily clash with those treasured myths. Malcolm is a serious historian. When published in 1994, in the middle of the war, this book was Malcolm's herald to an uncomprehending world. He had the fortitude to state up front that he believed the Serbians were primarily responsible for the destruction of Bosnia. For this, he was attacked as "biased." He is not so much biased as opinionated. Objectivity does not require neutrality. Or, as he expressed it himself, truth is not the average of the contending viewpoints. Two main themes pervade. First, the idea of Bosnia as a distinct, free-standing nation is very old and very well-established. The oft-heard claim that Bosnians are "really" Croats or "really" Serbs is historically unsupportable. In a fascinating digression, Malcolm demonstrates that the core ancestors of modern Bosnian Serbs were not even Slavs. They were Vlachs, a Romanized migrant tribe, remnants of the Illyrians, who pre-dated the 6th century Slav migration by hundreds of years. So much for Serbian and Russian affinity for their "Slav brothers." Nor was was Bosnia merely an arbitrarily-drawn administrative district. It was an independent kingdom from the end of Byzantine dominion in 1180 until the Ottoman conquest in 1463 (Herzegovina was annexed in 1326). The Ottomans conferred on it the distinction of being a separate eyalet, or province of the Empire, with its own high-ranking pasha. The Austro-Hungarians from 1878-1918, and Tito's communists from 1945-1989, in their turn treated it similarly. Malcolm's second major theme is that the much-cited "ancient hatreds" that were said by superficially-informed Western commentators to have "re-surfaced" after the collapse of the Yugoslav state did not exist. All the grim episodes in Bosnian history, he maintains, were engendered by outside forces, not internal hatreds. That is especially true of the 1992-95 war. Bosnian Catholics and Bosnian Orthodox Christians share nothing distinctive with inhabitants of Croatia or Serbia, except religion (the more-or-less common language cuts across all religions; and there is no distinctive Bosnian or Serbian or Croation race). Croatia and Serbia, in their competition with each other, have long tried to persuade their co-religionists in Bosnia that they were "really" Croats or Serbs. Slobodan Milosevic pushed that gambit to its limits. In truth, the claim that religious hatred characterized the history of Bosnia is a distortion. During the 400 years of Ottoman rule, there seems to have been little religious strife. Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims lived in substantial harmony, at least in comparison to the bitter religious conflicts occurring on the main part of the European continent. Jews and Gypsies were treated better by these Mohammedans than by just about any country in Christian Europe. When the Ottomans completed their conquest of Bosnia in 1463, resident Muslims were 2% of the population. By about 1600, they were a majority. Malcolm goes to lengths to argue that the conversion was voluntary. He cannot avoid conceding that non-Muslims were discriminated against. "Voluntary" converts attained lower taxes and access to the courts and to government careers. Moreover, about 200,000 Christian boys were forcibly taken to Istanbul for conversion during that century and a half in the infamous devsirme. But mass conversion was not coerced in the brutal way that our Christian ancestors so nobly enlightened conquered pagans. Similar harmony continued under the Austro-Hungarians, who made tolerance an imperial policy; and, despite some localized pogroms, through the inter-war period as well. Under Tito, all religion was repressed (though not forbidden). The combination of 40 years of atheistic communism plus the greater secularism of the modern era made Bosnia, on the eve of the 1990s war, one of the most secular nations in the world. Malcolm is scornful--almost bitter, it seems--of the Western belief at the time that the 1990s war was a "civil war" caused by a thing called "violence" which "flared up" on both sides, rather than what it was--a carefully-planned Serbian invasion of a woefully out-gunned Bosnia. Milosevic had control of the federal Yugoslav army. His strategy, borrowed from the Vietnamese communists, was to set up "Serb autonomous regions" in Bosnia; to arm them through the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic (now on trial at the Hague); to create violent local incidents inviting Bosnian reaction; then to have the autonomous regions request "protection" from the federal army. The actual war began when a leader of the Serb irregulars, the notorious Arkan, attacked the town of Bijeljina, in northeastern Bosnia just across the border from Serbia. It was the axial point of two swaths of territory to be taken over by the Serbians: across the top of Bosnia, linking Serbia with Banja Luka, and down the eastern border to the ethnically Serb areas of Herzegovina. Federal artillery would pound each town, then the irregulars would go in and terrorize the populace. In six weeks, the federal army supporting various paramilitaries took 60% of Bosnia. The federal army supposedly was then withdrawn, and the fighting left to the Bosnian Serbs under command of the future butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladic (still at large). In fact, Malcolm argues, it was all a sham, with most of the federal army staying in Bosnia under different cloaks (shades of Vietnam, again). Malcolm excoriates the West for two mistakes. The first was its refusal to lift the arms embargo, which in practice disadvantaged only the Bosnians. To lift it, said British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd with astonishing thick-headedness, "would only prolong the fighting." The second was to proffer the Vance-Owen Plan calling for ethnic cantons labeled as such, but leaving the boundaries unsettled, which invited further fighting. Worse, it engendered a true civil war, as Muslims and Bosnian Croats battled each other for territory. Malcolm adds that the final Western blunder was to abandon all pretense of enforcing the Vance-Owen plan, and adopt instead the tragically laughable policy of establishing UN-protected "safe areas." One of those was Srebrenica. The book ends in 1993. The worst horrors were yet to come. Malcolm's credibility slips in only one respect. He seems to bend too far over backwards to present Muslims favorably--not just the Bosniaks of the recent war, but the Ottomans as well. Were they really so mild and well-meaning? Books, like Olympic divers, should get degree-of-difficulty marks. This was a hard book to write. The sources are scanty and access to them difficult. Bosnia was settled, invaded, and impinged upon by so many civilizations that there is no unified tale, just dozens of fragmented tales. The bibliography is in ten languages. The old tale of the blind men and the elephant is too simple a metaphor for Bosnia. Any faction can argue any position and find some past episode to support it. A novice in Balkan history like me must be modest in evaluating a work by so learned and diligent an expert as Malcolm. I can, though, exercise the veteran trial lawyer's instinct for credibility. On that basis, I judge him honest and sincere, at a minimum, and mostly credible. That's a solid endorsement in a field so suffused with axe-grinding.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    A decent primer on Bosnian history, albeit one that felt a bit rushed to meet the needs of the early 1990s for a deeper understanding of the country. The most important point this book makes is about the historical reality of Bosnia as a nation. Bosnia is not like Syria or Iraq in the sense of being an "artificial" country with borders put together by foreign powers. It has existed with its traditional border at the Drina River for centuries. There is also no deterministic concept of the constit A decent primer on Bosnian history, albeit one that felt a bit rushed to meet the needs of the early 1990s for a deeper understanding of the country. The most important point this book makes is about the historical reality of Bosnia as a nation. Bosnia is not like Syria or Iraq in the sense of being an "artificial" country with borders put together by foreign powers. It has existed with its traditional border at the Drina River for centuries. There is also no deterministic concept of the constituent peoples of Bosnia constantly being at odds with one another; in fact there have been long periods of harmony between them. Their divisions have been inflamed repeatedly by outside powers, for whom Bosnia has been either a prize or a pawn. If Bosnia breaks up in the coming decades it will mean the destruction of an established European nation, not the unraveling of a fictive colonial creation. At the very least people should pause before accepting such an outcome lightly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Bosnia: A Short History, by Noel Malcolm, is an excellent and concise account of Bosnian history from the period of Slavic migration in the sixth century to the collapse of Yugoslavia and the beginning of the Bosnian Genocide (this book was published in 1994, before the end of the war in the Balkans and many of the more gruesome details were publicly known). Clearly, the Bosnian War had much influence on the book due to its publication date, but Malcolm writes a concise history that spans many a Bosnia: A Short History, by Noel Malcolm, is an excellent and concise account of Bosnian history from the period of Slavic migration in the sixth century to the collapse of Yugoslavia and the beginning of the Bosnian Genocide (this book was published in 1994, before the end of the war in the Balkans and many of the more gruesome details were publicly known). Clearly, the Bosnian War had much influence on the book due to its publication date, but Malcolm writes a concise history that spans many aspects of Bosnian history in detail. Malcolm begins with a brief overview of the region before Slavic migration, talking about local Illyrian tribes, Roman rule and the presence of valuable mineral mines in the area. Malcolm moves on to the movement of the Slavic tribes into the region, and the intermixing of Vlach tribes from Bulgaria. We then follow the ins and outs of Bosnian history up to its invasion by the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1400's. Bosnia existed as an independent kingdom up until this point, at times allying or fighting neighbouring kingdoms from Hungary, Serbia or even Italy. the Hungarian Kingdom sought to control Bosnia for many years, and Venice had designs on expanding its control over Dalmatia by annexing the vulnerable hinterland bordering the province from Bosnia. Malcolm details the ethnic and religious composition of Bosnia at this point. As an extremely controversial subject to this day, he does a remarkable job trying to remain level headed, especially at a time when a genocide was occurring inside the country of subject. Malcolm talks about the mixing of Slavic-Croatians and Serbians within Bosnia, as well as the arrival of Vlachs, Ragusan traders, and even Germans from Transylvania in the pre-Ottoman era. Bosnia at the time was heavily Catholic, with a large concentration of Orthodox Christians in the Herzegovina region. Pious Catholics viewed the Bosnia Christians as slightly heretical, as they often mixed in local customs and beliefs to create a Christianity more suited to them, but heretical to Papal and Franciscan Catholics. Malcolm takes much time to disprove the theory that Bogomilism (a form of dualist Christianity closely related to Manichaeism, which believed Earth and humanity were naturally evil, and only good deeds could bring one closer to God, amongst other ideas) and were instead motivated by numerous internal customs and traditions that allowed for a more adaptive form of Christianity. In the mid-1400's, the Ottoman Turks began their conquest of the Balkan region, in competition with Hungary, and succeeded in annexing Bosnia and most of the Balkans. This led to a period of Turkish rule, which marked a large change in Bosnia's religious make-up. Islamic conversion was very successful in Bosnia, second only to Albania, and many Bosnian's converted. The Turks also settled large numbers of Orthodox Christians into the area, to counter the influence of Catholicism closely associated with the Ottoman's rivals in the region, including Venice and Austria. Malcolm also writes a lengthy and interesting chapter on Jews and Gypsy's in Bosnia, and the shifting tolerance and persecution of these communities in Turkish-Bosnia. Muslim landowners became local elites in much of Bosnia, as well as Orthodox priests. The Turks also encouraged nomadic tribesmen to move to the border regions of Bosnia to use as proxy-soldiers in their struggles with Hungarian and then Austrian competition in the area, which both later states reciprocated. Turkish rule began to crumble in the 19th century, as internal struggles within the Ottoman state and foreign interference began to incite rebellious movements, inter-ethnic and religious strife, and nationalistic tendencies. After a series of Balkan wars in the mid 19th century, Austria-Hungary gained control of the region, formally annexing it in the early 20th century under pressure from a growing Serbian nationalism in newly independent Serbia. Austro-Hungarian rule came to an end following WWI, and led to the creation of a unified Yugoslavia under the direction of the victorious Allies. Bosnia at this time became more of a backwater, with many identifying as Serbian leaving for that region, and Croatian leaving for Croatia. The growing military might of Germany and Italy leading up to WWII created a tense political situation which the King of Yugoslavia tried to appease, to no avail. Germany eventually invaded, setting up occupation zones for themselves, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. This era led to the rise of Yugoslavian resistance groups, such as Tito's Partisans, as well as a number of nationalist rebel groups within Serb-dominated regions. Croatians largely cooperated with the Nazi regime. The fall of the Axis powers eventually lead to a Partisan victory, with Tito proclaiming a Communist state - which Tito ruled for many decades. The Communist state in Yugoslavia was quickly kicked out of the Comintern by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. This lead Tito to pursue a Neutrality league, bringing him into contact with many Arab nations unaligned to either side of the cold war. This period also lead to the reintroduction of Bosnia's Muslim's as important posters in the Yugoslavian state due to their understanding of Islamic tradition and the uses this would have in foreign relations with other unaligned states. The era also saw Bosnia continue its tradition as a backwater of Yugoslavia, with its representation in the Yugoslav government severely weakened. Indeed, Bosnia retained many autonomous rights, but was not considered a homogeneous region like Serbia or Croatia. This distinction was one of the main issues in the fall of Yugoslavia. Croatians and Serbian peoples living in Bosnia both wished to gain either autonomy or accession to their respective nations, and when Yugoslavia fell apart, and both Croatia and Slovenia declared independence, and an aggressive and genocidal Serbia began to rise up, Bosnia became the battle ground between the opposing forces. Originally supported by Croatia, independent Bosnia soon fell out with their allies, and both sides began a long campaign of violence and genocide to try and ensure maximum territorial and political gain. The book ends at this time, before some of the most iconic scenes of the conflict, and much of the more heinous genocidal acts were committed within Bosnia. Malcolm does note, however, that massacres were taking place, the words "ethnic cleansing" were being toyed with by a foot-dragging United Nations, and so on. Malcolm's account of Bosnia's history is fascinating. The many tales of conquest and annexation that Bosnia faced throughout its history is interesting. Malcolm does an excellent job comparing the various aspects of Bosnian history, and refuting the more ethnically charged contemporary myths about the nation. He goes into great detail, sometimes to his own detriment, about Bosnia's religious and ethnic composition himself, something he freely admits is difficult to understand due to the ravages of time and the difficulty of obtaining primary sources. Even so, Bosnia: A Short History is an interesting read about a nation that has experienced much trouble and much peace in its long and storied history, and continues to be an important centre for global affairs. Recommended for its concise nature and strong academic qualities, as well as the ease of reading and insight into the intricacies of Bosnian history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bojan Fürst

    This is one of the best books on the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina I came across. Superb scholarship and a fascinating and well balanced discussion of one of the most fascinating places in the world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erazmo1986

    When he wrote that ancient tribe Dalmatians got their name from Albanian word delma (sheep) I needed to check biography of this guy. And what we can read- he is university professor of history!!! At the same time he is a president of some society for anglo-albanian friendship. That explains everything. What a shame for the trees which are destroyed for paper of this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This book is well nigh perfect in providing an accessible history of Bosnia which puts the war there into perspective for the general reader. Except for knowing some Bosnians, studying the Bogomils in the context of heresiology and mentions of the country within the context of more general histories of Yugoslavia and the Balkans, I hadn't known much of anything about Bosnia before reading this. Reading it, I now feel I have a foundation for further study and understanding. This book is well nigh perfect in providing an accessible history of Bosnia which puts the war there into perspective for the general reader. Except for knowing some Bosnians, studying the Bogomils in the context of heresiology and mentions of the country within the context of more general histories of Yugoslavia and the Balkans, I hadn't known much of anything about Bosnia before reading this. Reading it, I now feel I have a foundation for further study and understanding.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrei Mungiu

    It is a good and informing book. The author obviously did a lot of research and knows the area well. However, there are excerpts and chapters which are either superficial, biased or not researched enough. One of them is the history of the vlachs, where the author definitely ablides too much to the Roeslerian theory that vlacho-romanian languages formed themselves in small pockets of Illyria to be then exported north of the Danube and by some very improbable ways took over and became spoken in a h It is a good and informing book. The author obviously did a lot of research and knows the area well. However, there are excerpts and chapters which are either superficial, biased or not researched enough. One of them is the history of the vlachs, where the author definitely ablides too much to the Roeslerian theory that vlacho-romanian languages formed themselves in small pockets of Illyria to be then exported north of the Danube and by some very improbable ways took over and became spoken in a huge territory roughly today's Romania. This is a fringe theory pushed by 19th century scholars very much similar to the Terra Nullius of Australian colonists. The mainstream countertheory is not even mentioned. Another sizeable downplay is the sizeable pecuniary incentives Bosniak peasants had in order to convert and become Muslim. We see similar patterns in Albania, Dobrudja and Kardzheli region of Bulgaria; this is a widespread phenomenon in Ottoman pashaliks. The underlying presence of the extinct Bosnian church is not a decisive factor, as suggested by the author. The conversion is widespread only in ares which were under direct Turkish rule, but not in Balkan lands with local rulers, such as Wallachia, Greece south of Thessaloniki and Northern Serbia. Probably most dissapointing is the suggestion that the Bosnian war should have been allowed to continue in complete defeat for the Bosnian Serbs and the Dayton accords should not have existed. This is an immense fallacy which would have led to more bloodshed, revenge and recrimination. That would have really destroyed Bosnia. The vindication is here 23 years after when, even if it's an often disfunctioning state, Bosnia is at peace, aiming towards prosperity and for better of worse generations pass and wounds slowly heal. At the 2014 world cup, Bosnia aligned a team with players of all three ethnic groups and religions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Farah

    Amazing read and one of very few books in English that actually goes through the history of Bosnia from early times to medieval to modern day. However, it seems highly laced with a bias towards a unified Bosnia, which is not bad in and of itself, but in doing so, disregards nationalist appeals to Serbs and Croats from outside powers and perhaps 'forces' an acceptance of what an acceptable 'Bosnian' should look like, disregarding how people may have actually identified and why they chose to ident Amazing read and one of very few books in English that actually goes through the history of Bosnia from early times to medieval to modern day. However, it seems highly laced with a bias towards a unified Bosnia, which is not bad in and of itself, but in doing so, disregards nationalist appeals to Serbs and Croats from outside powers and perhaps 'forces' an acceptance of what an acceptable 'Bosnian' should look like, disregarding how people may have actually identified and why they chose to identify as such.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brett C

    A valuable book of intense and rich information about Bosnia. It goes from the Roman times, Charlemagne, the Ottomans and the Islamization, World War II, and into the genocidal civil war. A great book about the rich history of this beautiful country. Most importantly the book was unbiased and gave the facts. Solid book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Damir Marusic

    Much like KOSOVO: A SHORT HISTORY, this is required reading. It's impossible to properly understand the Balkans without at least having read these two books by Noel Malcolm. Much like KOSOVO: A SHORT HISTORY, this is required reading. It's impossible to properly understand the Balkans without at least having read these two books by Noel Malcolm.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Humza

    For a “short history”, this book was surprisingly comprehensive. Starting from prehistoric times and concluding with the aftermath of the conflict in the 90s, this work was an interesting political history but also included insightful commentary on the various misconceptions surrounding both modern and historical Bosnia. Through his commentary Malcolm demonstrates just how misunderstood Bosnia and its people truly are. While this lack of knowledge has manifested itself in relatively benign ways For a “short history”, this book was surprisingly comprehensive. Starting from prehistoric times and concluding with the aftermath of the conflict in the 90s, this work was an interesting political history but also included insightful commentary on the various misconceptions surrounding both modern and historical Bosnia. Through his commentary Malcolm demonstrates just how misunderstood Bosnia and its people truly are. While this lack of knowledge has manifested itself in relatively benign ways throughout history, such as historical European population surveys confusing Bosnian Muslims with ethnic Turks, it also had more severe consequences. By making ill advised assumptions about Bosnian history and culture such as believing that inter-ethnic tensions were part and parcel of Bosnian society from the beginning of time, the international community in the 90s spectacularly failed to prevent (and even contributed to) genocide and oppression of Bosnians. A recent trip to Bosnia brought to light just how unique the country and it’s people truly are. Ignorantly thinking it would be basically a “mini Turkey”, I was surprised to discover how multicultural/multi religious Sarajevo and other cities were. Although the Islamic heritage is definitely amazing, it is far from the only cultural attraction. Beyond this, Bosnia as a whole and Sarajevo specifically have a unique feel as a result of its war torn history. As other travelers to Sarajevo have remarked, the entire city feels like a gigantic museum. While it has exhibited great resilience and is undergoing much development, reminders of the war are everywhere. Whether it’s bullet holes on the sides of buildings, “Sarajevo roses” on sidewalks, or cab drivers who remember using the Tunnel of Hope (Tunel Spasa) to smuggle basic necessities into the city during the war, it is truly surreal to see how people go about their everyday lives in a city that was being shelled less than 30 years ago. Noel Malcolm’s work, found in nearly even book store in Sarajevo, is superb in terms of it its coverage of this conflict. However, the initial chapters could have benefited from more exploration of Bosnian culture itself. The people of Bosnia are as unique as it’s history and should be learned about as such. As Malcolm alludes to at multiple points in the book, it is sadly ironic that such a beautiful and hospitable people have such a painful history. I would add that the natural beauty of the country also contributes to this sad dichotomy. Just as wherever you look in Bosnia there are reminders of a vicious war, there too are beautiful mountains, lakes and valleys untouched by commercialization. Overall, “Bosnia: A Short History” does provide the reader with the facts and commentary necessary to begin to understand this fascinating place. However to truly understand Bosnia, one must interact with the people themselves. As Alija Ali Izetbegović, the first President of Bosnia and Hercegovina, once said “Once the analysis is made, and when the miracle of Bosnian resistance is solved from a historic distance, it will be found - and I am sure of that - that the secret was somewhere in the souls or character of the people.”.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Farebrother

    An excellent potted history of Bosnia, which came out just in time for the war in Bosnia. The information on the medieval period and before, is invaluable for anyone trying to get to grips with the complexities of Bosnian identity. However, as one approaches the present day, the author seems to be markedly pro-Izetbegović in his perspective. This is understandable to a certain extent, as Izetbegović managed to position himself as the face of the Bosnian Muslims, who were the underdogs until the An excellent potted history of Bosnia, which came out just in time for the war in Bosnia. The information on the medieval period and before, is invaluable for anyone trying to get to grips with the complexities of Bosnian identity. However, as one approaches the present day, the author seems to be markedly pro-Izetbegović in his perspective. This is understandable to a certain extent, as Izetbegović managed to position himself as the face of the Bosnian Muslims, who were the underdogs until the final phase of the war; and because it is difficult if not impossible to apply the same objectivity in respect of current events as one can do in relation to the more distant past. All in all, an invaluable introduction to Bosnia up until the beginning of the war. The role of the historian is always political, and the version of older history served up to us by the authorities is difficult to challenge because any evidence to the contrary has already been discredited or destroyed. As Orwell wrote, "Who controls the past, controls the future". But its time to challenge the notion that Izetbegović was any less of an evil than Milošević and Tuđman.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dino Mehić

    With its innumerable cultures, religions, and political systems, looking into Bosnia is an ideological mirror where the observer’s beliefs and frameworks of understanding are projected back to the observer. This makes writing an unbiased history of the country that doesn’t feed into the propaganda of the various entities that have attempted to dominate it an arduous task. Noel Malcolm makes a very commendable effort in Bosnia: A Short History as he briefly surveys the entire country’s complex hi With its innumerable cultures, religions, and political systems, looking into Bosnia is an ideological mirror where the observer’s beliefs and frameworks of understanding are projected back to the observer. This makes writing an unbiased history of the country that doesn’t feed into the propaganda of the various entities that have attempted to dominate it an arduous task. Noel Malcolm makes a very commendable effort in Bosnia: A Short History as he briefly surveys the entire country’s complex history with its occupation by many different entities and the many different political and economic systems that have sprung from these entities, but it falls just short of being a perfect synopsis due to its poor summary of Bosnia under Tito’s Yugoslavia. Malcolm’s surveying deserves credit for taking care to have a level examination of Bosnia that covers all the important spheres including economics, politics, culture, immigration, and so on. For example, Malcolm is keen to detail both the economic nuances of Bosnian serfs being forced to surrender a portion of what they produce to the Ottoman occupation and also the unique practice of centuries old Catholic tattooing. Malcolm deserves even more credit for his myth-busting approach in many chapters, whether it’s the medieval myth of Bogomils being in Bosnia or the modern Western one of “ancient hatreds” where different ethnic groups or religions in Bosnia have been in a state of perpetual war and hate. Malcolm also frequently cites statistics whenever possible to provide empirical support for all the most important claims he makes about Bosnia. Lastly, he covers the most sensational and complicated period of the country, the war of the 1990s, with great analytical care. It’s surprising then for much of this great writing to be thrown out the window when Malcolm surveys the socialist and Titoist period of Yugoslavia. It’s mostly the omission of important facts rather than the claims he does make which is the problem. The Tito-Stalin Split, one of the most important events of the period, is too briefly mentioned and when it is Malcolm does not spend even a breath explaining why it occurred. There is no mention of workers' self-management with the exception of a passing critical quip, nor is there comprehensive enough mention of the highly unique detail that Yugoslavia and Bosnia under it did not feature a command economy like other communist countries but operated under open markets with access to Western goods. There is no mention of the development of universal healthcare, tuition-free college, accessible public housing and this resulting in the highest standard of living in all of Bosnian history. When Malcolm does rarely mention something on the topic he becomes critical in an unscholarly manner, making a silly reference to an eyewitness that the newly built post-WW2 roads were poor due to the bourgeoisie that were forced to work them and not because Yugoslavia’s industrialization and technology was behind Western countries. This leads the reader to believe that Malcolm may be a right-winger or anti-communist. Despite this blunder of a chapter, the overwhelming majority of Malcolm’s synopsis is excellent and should be mandatory reading for any Westerner wishing to become more educated about arguably the most fascinating and historically complex country in Europe. Malcolm ends his book with a very persuasive conclusion that attaches even a moral importance to reading Bosnian history, which is that failing to be educated about the country’s history contributes to Bosnia’s uncertain future as it has before like with misguided Western policies during the most recent war.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Faheem Hussain

    Here's my take: Bosnia by Noel Malcolm – Book Review 'When remembering the tragedies of the Balkan war, amidst the wide scale destruction, ethnic cleansing, and numerous massacres that took place, the loss of Bosnia’s cultural heritage may not seem particularly pernicious; after all, who weeps for books or old buildings? But as any student of nationalism will tell you, nations are not destroyed by force of arms, but the loss of their memories. And the scale of destruction here was breathtaking: t Here's my take: Bosnia by Noel Malcolm – Book Review 'When remembering the tragedies of the Balkan war, amidst the wide scale destruction, ethnic cleansing, and numerous massacres that took place, the loss of Bosnia’s cultural heritage may not seem particularly pernicious; after all, who weeps for books or old buildings? But as any student of nationalism will tell you, nations are not destroyed by force of arms, but the loss of their memories. And the scale of destruction here was breathtaking: the demolition of the National Library in Sarajevo, and the regional archives in Mostar, national and local museums, the razing of Bosnia’s architecture exhibiting the influences of its knotted history, singling out places of worship to facilitate ethnic cleansing — all of them physical witnesses to Bosnia’s multiethnic cultural heritage. This was nothing else but a systematic effort to erase Bosnia’s distinct nationhood. ...'

  15. 4 out of 5

    Filip

    I really liked first few chapters about history of the Bosnia, it is really great insight in the herectical Church of Bosnia and islamisation, it changed the way I look at that part of Bosnian history. But I disliked latter parts of the book. Malcolm is clearly taking Bosniak side of the story and he liked Alia Izetbegovic the dumbest and most shortsided politician in the hard times of breakup of Yugoslavia. Malcolm is too onesided for my taste!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Catalina

    I think the only people who could read this book without problems and constant consultation of maps and historical documents would be specialists in the region. The book, especially towards the end is packed with facts, yet somehow Noel Malcom manages to be overtly subjective and at times tells you what is the obvious truth.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sabina

    Excellent introduction and overview. Noel Malcolm's book gives a great insight into the turbulent and often tragic history of Bosnia and its people, without falling into the trap of mythologizing the causes and reasons for conflicts and wars that have so deeply traumatized this beautiful country. Excellent introduction and overview. Noel Malcolm's book gives a great insight into the turbulent and often tragic history of Bosnia and its people, without falling into the trap of mythologizing the causes and reasons for conflicts and wars that have so deeply traumatized this beautiful country.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    As with Malcolm's "Kosovo: A Short History", this is a must-read for Yugoslavophiles like myself. It is simply a brilliant encapsulation of a country with a long and complicated history. As with Malcolm's "Kosovo: A Short History", this is a must-read for Yugoslavophiles like myself. It is simply a brilliant encapsulation of a country with a long and complicated history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anny

    I read both this book and the one about Kosovo by the same author, and I found that they complimented each other very well. They both made for a compelling and interesting read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul Kelly

    An incendiary topic that will always fuel heated debate; the Balkans ; a gallimaufry of cultures, religionists, clashing Empires, land of mosques, churches, castles, rivers and mountains, internecine blood-letting, where East meets West. A place very dear to me as I spent much of the 1990's there as a serving soldier and later as an NGO. This great read by Noel Malcolm was never going to be an easy task for neutrality. He holds his impartiality well and provides evidence to back up claims that hav An incendiary topic that will always fuel heated debate; the Balkans ; a gallimaufry of cultures, religionists, clashing Empires, land of mosques, churches, castles, rivers and mountains, internecine blood-letting, where East meets West. A place very dear to me as I spent much of the 1990's there as a serving soldier and later as an NGO. This great read by Noel Malcolm was never going to be an easy task for neutrality. He holds his impartiality well and provides evidence to back up claims that have been challenged by revisionists and sectarians hell-bent on air brushing history to suit their bigoted ideologies. Malcolm has to be nonpartisan , his reputation is on the line as the pre-eminent scholar of Ottoman Balkan affairs and why would he risk that? He doesn't. He continually brings evidence to the table as painful as it is for some. Demagogues exist and for the most part are implacable. The very reason we need Noel Malcolm. Interesting to read on the nascent stages of Bogomolism and its ephemeral existence , the equally short lifespan of the Bosnian church and its vying to survive the behemoths of the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. Intriguing to discover that Islamicization appears to have been mostly voluntary and over a gradual period as opposed to the much believed coercion by the sword. More to discover; the hated Devshirme tax or tribute in boys to the Sultan and their training to be Janissaries; the little known Muslim Handschar Waffen SS division that a young Alija Izetbegovic served in, and of course in the final chapters an analysis of the vitiating , destruction and race to the bottom of beautiful Bosnia.

  21. 5 out of 5

    invertedworldwriter

    This book is definitely informative on the following subjects: 1) the racial history and origins of Bosnian people (along with the Croats and Serbs) 2) an exploration of the different theories for the Islamization of Bosnia (which I found personally interesting- specifically, the 'Bogomil' theory) 3) lucid descriptions about how life was under Ottoman rule, and also, later on, the effect of the Austria-Hungarian, and rise of Pan-Slavism 4) Serbian politics in the late twentieth century and their dom This book is definitely informative on the following subjects: 1) the racial history and origins of Bosnian people (along with the Croats and Serbs) 2) an exploration of the different theories for the Islamization of Bosnia (which I found personally interesting- specifically, the 'Bogomil' theory) 3) lucid descriptions about how life was under Ottoman rule, and also, later on, the effect of the Austria-Hungarian, and rise of Pan-Slavism 4) Serbian politics in the late twentieth century and their dominant role in both the formation and split of Yugoslavia It focuses on the history of Bosnian identity, their ever-changing relationship with the Croats and Serbs (mostly due to economic or agrarian reasons), the influence of both the Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian empires, and most importantly, it disapproves the claim that the war in Bosnia was the "inevitable consequence of ancient ethnic hatreds" which is a subject epically touched on in the opening pages. Overall, the book is a dry read- but this is what I was looking for. In the years between 1990 and 1992, it focuses more on Serbian politics, Western interference (mostly just stating how western politicians overlooked the causes of the Yugoslavia war), and does not elucidate the Srebrenica genocide nor the Dayton agreement, which might be a minus for some people. I enjoyed the first half of the book the most, and recommend it if you are doing a research paper.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ben Hillier

    I knew little about the war in Bosnia and wanted to learn the history, events, and causes of that conflict. After reading this book I have a good overall understanding, not only of the conflict but of the general history of Bosnia. So the book definitely served its purpose. It is very well written and I actually found it hard to put down during the chapters dealing with post WWI. The author does not hesitate to outline his opinions which some might see as bias. My view is that this is done critica I knew little about the war in Bosnia and wanted to learn the history, events, and causes of that conflict. After reading this book I have a good overall understanding, not only of the conflict but of the general history of Bosnia. So the book definitely served its purpose. It is very well written and I actually found it hard to put down during the chapters dealing with post WWI. The author does not hesitate to outline his opinions which some might see as bias. My view is that this is done critically and based on evidence which is explained in such a way that it adds to the narrative and is not a fault. Recommend for anyone like me who would like a one stop book for a history of Bosnia and to understand the background of the conflict.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Book2Dragon

    A bit dry for me, but it is a scholarly work with lots of notes and references, and even a glossary which is very useful. (I didn't discover it til the end!) The problems in Bosnia were nothing new, It seemed there were always wars. My conclusion would be the wars were not due to the people, but due to politicians hungry for power. One reason I would very much recommend this book is it tells how Milosevic manipulated the Serbs by the media. A good warning to think as well as take in all you are A bit dry for me, but it is a scholarly work with lots of notes and references, and even a glossary which is very useful. (I didn't discover it til the end!) The problems in Bosnia were nothing new, It seemed there were always wars. My conclusion would be the wars were not due to the people, but due to politicians hungry for power. One reason I would very much recommend this book is it tells how Milosevic manipulated the Serbs by the media. A good warning to think as well as take in all you are told.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Smith

    Malcolm meticulously investigates the cultural and ethnic patchwork that characterises the western Balkans and Bosnia in particular, arguing that deep-seated ‘national’ tensions were not the source of the 1990s conflict. Instead, he expertly focuses on the exogenous causes of the conflict, citing Serb aggression and bellicose propaganda as manipulating coexistent differences into sources of ethnic friction and paranoia. Slightly cumbersome in places, but overall an in-depth and extensive coverag Malcolm meticulously investigates the cultural and ethnic patchwork that characterises the western Balkans and Bosnia in particular, arguing that deep-seated ‘national’ tensions were not the source of the 1990s conflict. Instead, he expertly focuses on the exogenous causes of the conflict, citing Serb aggression and bellicose propaganda as manipulating coexistent differences into sources of ethnic friction and paranoia. Slightly cumbersome in places, but overall an in-depth and extensive coverage of a nadir in modern European history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This book does a good job of showing the history of Bosnia and its people, especially in relation to the war that started in 1992. It can be at times hard to follow for the uninitiated but if you already know the region or become familiarized while reading the book it provides a clear picture of the authors view of how and why the war came about. This is one of 4 books I bought when I purchased the war game Brotherhood and Unity which is about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a good star This book does a good job of showing the history of Bosnia and its people, especially in relation to the war that started in 1992. It can be at times hard to follow for the uninitiated but if you already know the region or become familiarized while reading the book it provides a clear picture of the authors view of how and why the war came about. This is one of 4 books I bought when I purchased the war game Brotherhood and Unity which is about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a good starting point and am looking forward to comparing the authors conclusions with others.

  26. 5 out of 5

    James McNerney

    A succinct history that dispels much of the nonsense promulgated in Western press, about this being a wild and fractured land. Malcolm clearly explains how increasingly nationalistic Serbia and Croatia, used religion to divide a generally harmonious and unified Bosnian identity, in the late 19th, early 20th century. The opening chapters on the early Bosnian church and the Serbs and Vlachs are particular highlights.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Igor

    This will be a very prosaic review. I quite liked the book, it is well written and well researched. However, it feels like it rushes over most of the ancient and medieval history of Bosnia to arrive as soon as possible to the modern period. While the recent conflict(s) possibly thrust Bosnia into the limelight of global political attention, it's history is much richer and more interesting than the recent unfortunate events (clusterfuck). This will be a very prosaic review. I quite liked the book, it is well written and well researched. However, it feels like it rushes over most of the ancient and medieval history of Bosnia to arrive as soon as possible to the modern period. While the recent conflict(s) possibly thrust Bosnia into the limelight of global political attention, it's history is much richer and more interesting than the recent unfortunate events (clusterfuck).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adriano

    A passionate and detailed history of Bosnia, showing the negative and fatal effects of foreign countries on the present status of Bosnia. It demolishes many common misconceptions on local ethnic hatred and of Yugoslavia. I hope a new edition will be published with news of the situation after 1995 and possible clues towards a future united peaceful and multicultural Bosnia.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    Brilliant book if you want to try and understand what Bosnia is all about. It's a really tough read though, very complex. I'm glad I read it but wow, it was hard work! Brilliant book if you want to try and understand what Bosnia is all about. It's a really tough read though, very complex. I'm glad I read it but wow, it was hard work!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    After 20 years, I am finally beginning to understand the Balkans.

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