Samuel FosterSep 27, 2021
Yugoslavia in the British Imagination
Peace, War and Peasants Before Tito
Bloomsbury Publishing 2021
Despite Britain's entering the 20th century as the dominant world power, its public discourses were imbued with cultural pessimism and rising social anxiety. Samuel Foster is a Visiting Academic at the University of East Anglia. His first monograph, Yugoslavia in the British Imagination: Peace, War and Peasants before Tito (Bloomsbury, 2021), explores how this changing domestic climate shaped perceptions of other cultures, and Britain's relationship to them, focusing on those Balkan territories that formed the first Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1941. The book examines these connections and demonstrates how the popular image of the region's peasantry evolved from that of foreign 'Other' to historical victim - suffering at the hand of modernity's worst excesses and symbolizing Britain's perceived decline. This coincided with an emerging moralistic sense of British identity that manifested itself during the First World War. Consequently, Yugoslavia was legitimized as the solution to peasant victimization and, as Foster's nuanced analysis reveals, enabled Britain's imagined (and self-promoted) revival as civilization's moral arbiter. Drawing on a range of previously unexplored archival sources, this compelling transnational analysis is an important contribution to the study of British social history and the nature of statehood in the modern Balkans.
Vladislav Lilic is a doctoral candidate in Modern European History at Vanderbilt University.