Kosovo, a 55-mile-long plateau in southern Serbia bordering Albania and Macedonia, should by all rights be a historical and political backwater. A Bulgarian geographer who visited Kosovo during World War I remarked that it was "almost as unknown and inaccessible as a stretch of land in Central Africa." The observation would prove ironically fitting by the '90s, as Central Africa and Kosovo both became sites of widespread genocide, fueled by ethnic hatreds, of the deepest international significance. Noel Malcolm, a British historian and journalist who has written extensively about the Balkans (including a companion volume of sorts on Bosnia), provides an overview of Kosovo's long-standing cultural divisions in his "short history" (although, at more than 500 pages, a not so short book).
Readers following the unfolding war in Kosovo through newspaper and television coverage may well ask why ethnic Albanians and Serbs are struggling so violently to command the small region. Kosovo, Malcolm explains, is the birthplace of Serbian nationalism; the defeat of Serbian forces there in 1389 by Turkish troops became emblematic of the fall of the Serbian empire, as it led to Turkish domination of the Balkans. Contemporary warriors of Serbia are, in Malcolm's eyes, evidently attempting to reverse the course of history by reclaiming the land from its Turkish conquerors--but in the absence of the Turks, they'll take it from the Albanians (the largest ethnic group among Kosovo's inhabitants) whose ancestors converted to Islam when the Turks ruled the region. Malcolm's lucid text shows again and again that the ethnic conflict in Kosovo is less a battle over bloodlines and religion than it is one over differing conceptions of national origins and history. "When ordinary Serbs learn to think more rationally and humanely about Kosovo, and more critically about some of their national myths," he concludes, "all the people of Kosovo and Serbia will benefit--not least the Serbs themselves." --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In this awe-inspiring work, Malcolm has created a vital successor to his Bosnia: A Short History and an essential aid to anyone who wishes to understand this tragic region today. Through the dazzling use of linguistic evidence, Malcolm postulates that Albanians, whether their nebulous origins are Thracian or Illyrian, can reasonably be placed in the region as early as pre-Roman times. The historical description begins in earnest with the Middle Ages, with the advent of written records, and Malcolm appears to have ferreted out every one. His book is exceptional not only for his unimpeachable research, but also for his equitable examination of the conflicting ethnic views of what really happened in this contentious region, and his determination to debunk dangerous myths. If some will be shocked to learn that Serbian state policy mandated ethnic cleansing for more than 100 years, others will be equally amazed at the resilience of a people who for centuries have been caught in nationalistic crossfire. But probably the most important contribution of the book is its clear and thorough documentation of the legal status of Kosovo over time, and its compelling conclusions that challenge the accepted status quo. One can't help speculating on how a clear understanding of the information contained here might have affected the Dayton Accord and history.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In a nutshell: If you know very little about Kosovo (as was the case with me), you will get a very good introduction to its history starting from the Middle Ages and up to WWI or... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bryan Byrd
A book of great importance for those who wish to understand the young country of Kosova. Have read the book as soon as I found it on the bookstore shelf and very often refer to it... Read morePublished 6 months ago by FVehapi
It was good as far as it went, and for historic background but I need something that covered the region after 1999.Published 9 months ago by Robert W. Becker
Probably the most fair and independent research ever done on this little corner of the Balkans.
It should be mandatory reading on all history school books of the Balkan... Read more
A great writing that keeps the subject interesting. I read his history of Bosnia as well and was just as entertained while learning.Published 18 months ago by H. Hall
I gave this book five stars for the reason I described in the title to this brief review. Noel Malcolm's Kosovo: A Short History covers Kosovo's history since around the 850s. Read morePublished 19 months ago by DC87
The author probably makes a sincere attempt at objectivity, but it is clear that he has a deep affection for the Albanian people that has colored his work. Read morePublished 20 months ago by John Desmond