In this first full study of the Kosovo province of the former Yugoslavia, Noel Malcolm traces the history of the region from earliest times, 850 to 1380, to the present, a period in which the region is wracked by a seemingly intractable conflict between the Serbian nationalists who claim Kosovo and the ethnic Albanians who have lived there for generations. While many commentators label such conflicts as those in Croatia and Bosnia as ethnic, Malcolm considers them almost wholly political disputes fueled by such politicians as Slobodan Milosevic.
The difference between these conflicts and the one raging in Kosovo is that the Serbs and Albanians share less in common with each other than the Croatians and Bosnians do. Serbs and Albanians do not speak the same language. The Eastern Orthodox religion of the Serbs is inimical to the Muslim religion practiced by many Albanians. Add to that the long history of animosity between the two factions, and it is easy to appreciate the complexity of the situation.
The subtitle of KOSOVO, “A Short History,” may seem contradictory when applied to a volume of over five hundred pages. The thirteen-century time span that the book covers, however, could lend itself easily to a multi-volume work. Malcolm has, with admirable control and well-sustained focus, presented a comprehensive historical account of one of the most complex socio- political situations in the twentieth century. He has done so with commendable insight and unfailing clarity. His guides to pronunciations of words, his illustrative maps, and his comprehensive index, all of which enhance the basic text, combine to make this study a most useful resource.