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Bosnia: A Short History

4.1 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814755204
ISBN-10: 0814755208
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To explain the origins of the current conflict in Bosnia, Malcolm reaches back to Turkish occupation, Austro-Hungarian rule, both world wars and the era of Stalinist oppression under Toti. He contends that "ethnic cleansing" is not a by-product of the current war but a central element in the Serbian goal of creating homogeneous Serb enclaves that eventually will join together in a Greater Serbia. Malcolm condemns Western interference, singling out politicians and diplomats who attempt to suppress the war's symptoms instead of treating its causes. He argues persuasively that the United Nations-imposed arms embargo against Bosnia opened the way to that nation's destruction, and that the vaunted Vance-Owen peace plan was only slightly less disastrous. It led to a genuine Bosnian civil war, ruining the only effective barrier against the Serbs, the Croat-Muslim alliance. Political columnist for London's Daily Spectator, Malcolm has covered the Balkans for 15 years.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The collapse of former Yugoslavia and the ensuing war have shifted scholarly attention to its successor states. Malcolm's success consists in demonstrating why Bosnia-Hercegovina's distinctive history demands such an approach. The mix of elements include the region's geographic "remoteness" from other centers of power, its unusual Slav and non-Slav blend of population, and its status as an object of neighboring rivalry. The author cogently dispels the myths of forcible conversion to Islam by the Ottomans as well as the notion of a "fundamentalist threat" from an Islamic Bosnia. Although Malcolm is least comfortable in dealing with the segment of Bosnia's history as a part of Yugoslavia, he makes the case that its subsequent destruction was an object of "rational strategy" rather than religious hatred. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ.-Erie
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 374 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (July 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814755208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814755204
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The study of Bosnia and its surrounding neighbors will never be simple and probably tough for an outsider to understand, and likely for an insider to decipher without prejudice and bias. The mighty powers of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans,and the Austro-Hungarians, and the faiths of Western and Estern Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all played significiant roles in the history and development of Bosnia as it stands today. To understand what is happening, you must first try to understand the origins of the continual fighting,and the second is the need to dispel some of the mists of misunderstanding, deliberate myth-making (propaganda from all sides) and sheer ignorance in which all discussion of Bosnia and its history has become shrouded. One thing that a traveler notices right away is that there is no typical Bosnian face and Bosnia has been called microcosm of the Balkans. It is a mixture of people, light and dark, big-boned and wiry-limbed, etc., because of all the trading and invasions, and co-mingling during the preceding centuries. The author does a good job in analyzing the myths, races, and orgins, and how geography was extremely important, especially the two main two routes of travel either through the high mountains or along the Dalmatian coastal strip. Historians may find fault in some areas of the book, but as a tourist and adventurer, I evaluated the book as a 'must-read' to help understand the Balkans.
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Format: Paperback
Malcolm does a pretty good job in covering almost 1000 years of Slav history in Bosnia. Most of his book looks at Bosnia during the Ottoman Empire and the reign of the Kotromanic dynasty. His narrative for the most part is very clear-sighted and does not allow anger or bitterness to take over, unlike many other historians who have written books on the Balkans (Philip Cohen springs to mind)

Saying that, however, there are certain subjects that he just doesn't cover in enough detail, particularly since they were very important parts of Bosnia's history. For example, he mentions the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia during WW2 in passing, reserving only one sentence on this subject, and completely fails to mention that thousands upon thousands of Serbs, Jews and others perished there.

His last chapter about the most recent Bosnian war I found to be too short and simplistic. He blames forces in Serbia for most of the mayhem wrought upon Bosnia, which is fair enough, but does not even hint at the fact that Bosniacs and Croats also committed war crimes. While the Serbs were busy expelling and killing Bosniacs from their area of control, the Croats were also doing the same in Herzegovina and central Bosnia, culminating into a civil war between the Bosniacs and the Croats during 1992-1994. This side of Bosnia's tragedy is sadly neglected.

Ok, as the title describes, it is a SHORT history at the end of the day but it just seems to me as if he managed to cover the earlier parts of Bosnia's history very well but seems to slightly taper of at the end of the book. All in all, a good book which is certainly one of the more balanced books out there on Bosnia.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
Bosnia: A Short History is the historical primer for Bosnia. Yes, it does paint the Serbs in a negative light. And yes, there are much better book on the Bosnian War available: The Fall of Yugoslavia for example. Due to publication dates, the effects of the last five years of peacekeeping are not touched upon: for that Faking Democracy after Dayton is the best reference. However, this book give the single best history until the post World War II era. If you are about to deploy to the Balkans, reading of this book will give you a good historical background of the events leading up to 1989.
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