on November 3, 2000
Even though this book was first published over 40 years ago, it is still the seminal text on general Balkan history. L.S. Stavrianos provided a detailed, comprehensive yet immensely readable survey of events and developments in the Balkans since the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. He deals with each country/region individually, but also maintains an overall perspective and analysis. Even if the narrative ends with the immediate post-World War II years, this text illuminates many of the historical precedents that underpin current events in the region. It is therefore much more useful to read this book than the many essentially popular histories written about the Balkans as a whole or the invidual countries in the region over the course of the last decade. The publisher should also be commended for re-issuing this book; for years the about only place one could find it was at major universities and larger, better-stocked public libraries. There's no substitute for this book, it is a must-read for everyone who really wants to learn about Balkan history.
on April 23, 2000
It is wonderful to read that Stavrianos is coming out again. During my six years in graduate school in Eastern European history (1971-1977) this was the BEST and only synthesis encompassing all of the Balkan countries. Stavrianos alternates sections on individual countries with syntheses of the region as a whole. He had a masterful grasp of every country and his sound judgements reflected long experience and wisdom in sifting through the materials. I referred to it often and still have it in my collection. I have not seen anything since that comes anywhere near this monumental effort.
on January 3, 2001
The book by prof.Stavrianos was the last one I had on my list of books on the Balkans that I had planned to read as background material for my own work on the economies of the EU Candidate Countries, and especially of course the Southeastern ones (the other books were by Glenny, Hodos, Obolensky, Kaplan). It was also the thickest one at 850 pages but I must say it was a pleasure to read. The set-up by theme and by individual country is always clear, and there is a richness of detail and at the same time a broad sweep that gives a very good overview. This is indeed what makes this book an exellent and impressive reference work, as the other reviewers also indicated and with which i can only concur. This richness also sometimes made me skip a few pages as I was not interested in every detail but this is not a criticism per se; there will be something in this book for all interested in the Balkans without necessarily wanting to take note of all the information that is there.
For me as an economist, what the author makes clear and what struck me in particular was how the combination of economic (agricultural, industrial, financial, infrastructural) underdevelopment and social and political problems (health, education, ethnic and reliious) that are still present today in many of these countries, have been part of their history for centuries. This does not mean they are immutable (and becoming an EU Member is the best way to break this deadlock, I am convinced) but it shows how deep a legacy needs to be overcome. So for this insight already for me the book was well worth reading. In combination with M. Glenny who provides a modern history of the period 1800-1990s there is of course some overlap but I can recommend to have them both (Glenny is perhaps more lively written). Stavrianos will stand as the reference work by which others are measured.
on January 20, 2014
There is not so much to add to the previous reviews, but anyway I’ll try to give my two cents.
This book is very well written: informative, precise, concise and entertaining. It begins with a summary of Balkans' history before 1453, so you get the background.
Afterwards, it gives you the broad landscape, but adds some very well selected quotes -memories, travel books of the time- that refers to more or less detailed aspect of the matter, so you get a well-rounded explanation.
I dare to say that every single page, not to say every single paragraph, leaves you with something to think about. Nevertheless, this is not a book to be read on one long tirade, due to the amount of information assembled. Sometimes you need to rest a little before following. But the book is very worth it.
To finish I would like to add that this not only a work of true scholarship, but of a man who loves his work.
Thanks to the previous reviewers that helped me decide me to buy this book.
on November 6, 2015
This is a book, published in 2000, that I obtained just prior to my retirement in 2010. I have found the book to be an excellent research tool on the ever-changing Balkans. This book took me back to the early years of the hostilities between the various ethnic groups of the Balkans. It never ceases to surprise me that the wars between the ethnic groups of the early years are merely being repeated in the present day. This book by Professor L. S. Stavrianos (from the History Department of Northwestern University) is a delightful and thoroughly researched book that brings the reader right up to the present.
on October 4, 2001
This is an indispensable resource for any one interested in Balkan History. It's a comprehensive and wide resource that takes you through the political, economic, and social history of the Balkans, organized by modern state with chapters from each time period on political developments and the Ottoman Empire as a whole. A special focus on ethnic and national issues makes it more than relevant today, despite its age.
on April 2, 2012
Should you want to UNDERSTAND Balkan History, this is the book!
It is a MONUMENTAL, COLOSSAL, work. AGELESS scholarship at its best.
on November 20, 2001
This was the best textbook I ever had and the course on Balkan history taught by Charles Jelavich at Indiana University, with this book, was the best I ever took. Unfortunately I lost my copy years ago. Now that the Mideast is once again a mess, I turned to look for a copy. I am happy to see it back in print, just sorry the price is so ridiculously high. The book is priceless, but to be contrary this price is too high. The paperback is worth it.
This very important and extensive work that gives a quick and concise but nevertheless essential history of the Balkans since 1453 provides much to the reader in the way of detail. It is an excellent history. However it also is responsible for creating threee enduring myths in Eastern European history. First it defined the period after 1800 as the 'era of nationalism'. THis is strange, for the same movement in Africa and elsewhere, when people revolted against colonial masters, was called the 'age of liberation'. So why it is nationalism when it is Europeans rebelling against Muslim colonialism?
Secondly it repeats the myth that all history everywhere(from Africa to India to Central Asia to Spain) begins with Muslim occupation. 1453 was the date of the fall of constantinople. However this ignores the fact that there was a deep cultural history of the Balkans before Islam and that the Ottomans were merely a foreign yoke.
Thirdly the book downplays Ottoman atrocities such as the sale of Greeks into slavery after 1832, the very existence of slavery(selling of CHristians by Muslims) is not given any real coverage, the Bulgarian massacres are also ignored. Had it been Europeans colonizing the Balkans and selling the Slavs to be sure this would have been one of the main themes but because it was the Ottoman Muslims it is ignored. Thus an important text is also responsible for many enduring myths.
Seth J. Frantzman