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Bosnia: A Short History

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  558 ratings  ·  67 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by New York University Press (first published 1994)
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Jeff Kelleher
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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 ...more
Bojan Fürst
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
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.
Erik Graff
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: A.M.
Shelves: history
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. ...more
Andrei Mungiu
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
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
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Damir Marusic
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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. ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
John Farebrother
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dino Mehić
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it
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!
Brett C
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: balkans
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.
May 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Paul  Kelly
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Ben Hillier
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Charlie Smith
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James McNerney
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 28, 2021 rated it liked it
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). ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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! ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
After 20 years, I am finally beginning to understand the Balkans.
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