Bosnia: A Short History

Bosnia: A Short History by Noel Malcolm

Noel Malcolm’s work Bosnia: A Short History is a brief, yet expansive, history of the Eastern European country, inextricably linked with the devastation in the former Yugoslavia. However, Malcolm approaches the region from a much different perspective than many of his contemporary scholars. Malcolm perceives the region not as an inevitable cauldron of political instability and violence, rather as one that was plunged into violence, counter to most of it history. Malcolm’s observations are comprehensive, drawing on all sorts of academic disciplines, like archaeology, to demonstrate his thesis. Ultimately, Malcolm concludes the aggression evident in the region is NOT a result of “ancient, tribal loyalties” but rather as a result of pre-meditated Serbian propaganda and aggression.

Malcolm’s book spends the majority of its chapters recounting the long history of Bosnia, going as far back as the encounters with the Romans and their eventual settlement. Malcolm continues through various incarnations of rule and government, establishing the area as one of relative toleration, rather than intolerance. The development of Muslim invasions and conquest, and its subsequent impact on Serb, Croat, and eventual Bosnian Muslim identities is explored extensively. Malcolm also notes the contributions of less important groups, like Jews in the narrative of Bosnian history.

Most of the book concerns itself with setting up the historical structure of the Bosnian state. When Malcolm finally reaches the contemporary era, his historical outlines supports his explanation that the violence is not an inherent symptom of the region, but a newer development. Malcolm argues the main reason for the violence is to be heaped mainly on the Serbs for economic reasons, not the visceral “blood feud” arguments that permeate discussion of the region. Highly readable and highly recommended.

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