Richard Hall

The Modern Balkans

A History

Reaktion Books 2011

New Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network June 17, 2011 Nicholas Walton

Some parts of the world seem to suffer from rather too much history. The Balkans, that mountainous peninsula situated between the Black Sea and...

Some parts of the world seem to suffer from rather too much history. The Balkans, that mountainous peninsula situated between the Black Sea and the Adriatic, is most certainly one of them. Perhaps it’s because the Balkans stands on so many of Europe’s historical fault lines: Asia v. Europe; Eastern v. Western Roman Empires; Orthodox v. Catholic; Christianity v. Islam; Habsburg v. Ottoman; Axis v. Allied; Capitalism v. Communism. Whatever the reason, the Balkans’ surfeit of history has usually been painful and bloody.

For the historian, of course, this makes the various countries of the Balkans a fascinating subject. Richard Hall‘s book The Modern Balkans: A History (Reaktion Books, 2011) does a fantastic job of plotting a clear course through that history stretching back over two millenia, all in a remarkably slim and readable volume. I had planned to keep the interview with Richard similarly slim, but the sheer weight of interesting material that his excellent book covers overtook us. It’s a bit of a breakneck jaunt, but both of us thoroughly enjoyed the interview, and I hope you do too!

P.S. A couple of notes to add to the interview:

1. When I mention Serbian deaths in the First World War I gave the figure of 25% of males killed. The actual figure is a remarkable 37% of mobilised male Serbs, and 23% of all male Serbs between the ages of 15 and 49. The only other nations to suffer similar figures are also in the region: Turkey (27%), Romania and Bulgaria are the others to have lost over 20% of their mobilised men.

2. I mentioned that an English cricketer and footballer, CB Fry, had been offered the throne of Albania. This apparently happened in Geneva in 1920, although there is understandably still debate over whether or not this actually happened (among other things CB Fry was a terrific story teller).

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