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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough and impartial history of this troubled area.
This is an excellent review of the history of a region largely neglected until the recent conflict. While examining the vexed question of historical precedent Malcolm is quick to point out that the issue of "who was there first" should have no bearing on solving present-day political and ethnic difficulties. However, this is self-consciously a serious work...
Published on 8 Sep 1999

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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched and written, flawed by its partisan politics
I was interested to read what has become a standard work on Kosovo and its conflicts. The online reviews are divided into two camps: "great book" and "one-sided propaganda". The problem is that both are partly right, it is well-written and well-researched in a neglected area, and I would have given it top marks but for the "partisan...
Published on 30 Sep 2001


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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough and impartial history of this troubled area., 8 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
This is an excellent review of the history of a region largely neglected until the recent conflict. While examining the vexed question of historical precedent Malcolm is quick to point out that the issue of "who was there first" should have no bearing on solving present-day political and ethnic difficulties. However, this is self-consciously a serious work of history and can lose itself in intellectual arguments about which the casual reader has little knowledge or interest. Anyone looking for a more digestible guide to Kosovar history might be better advised to turn to Miranda Vickers' excellent book "Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo". Like Malcolm's book it is scrupulously well-balanced and thoroughly researched but offers a much easier ride to the uninformed. Unfortunately Amazon do not seem to stock Vickers' book and it is not widely available in high street book shops either, so a hunt is required. Of course better than reading one or the other, for the full picture only both will do.
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13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The single best book on the subject, 9 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
Malcolm's _Short History_ is a work of original scholarship, based on original archival research. In addition to sifting through the archives, he also appears to have read virtually everything worth reading that has been published on this subject in some twenty languages.
Malcolm's work is addressed to the educated general reader, but is surprisingly accessible. It is clearly organised and he writes in an eminently readable, at times even elegant prose style of a sort we rarely encounter among academic authors these days. For a very long book (the subtitle is indeed a misnomer) this makes for surprisingly good reading -- sometimes the author's quest to work through the tangle of sources and contradictory claims to get at the root of what really happened at some key juncture carries the reader along with all the excitment of a good historical detective story.
At times, however, even an interested reader may find himself wishing that Malcolm, or his editor, had exercised a bit more restraint by not following every historiographic controversy down every speculative blind alley. There are parts of the book that some readers will want to skim over lightly. But on the whole, this is a book that well repays the effort.
Aside from managing to make sense of a complex region and its history over more than a millennium, Malcolm's greatest achievement is the way he punctures many of the historical myths and illusions dear to Balkan nationalists, both Serbs and Albanians. By doing so, he will no doubt give offense to those determined to hold fast to their patriotic illusions about the past in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary. But, unlike his critics, Malcolm has done his research and has read the original sources, and no one to my knowledge has so far been able to demonstrate that he has missed or misrepresented the sources in any significant instance.
Those who wish to understand Kosovo and the Balkans, which are not likely to fade from our front pages anytime soon, cannot do so without some grasp of the historical issues that form the background to the region's troubled present. There are many books on Kosovo these days, most of them written by journalists on sabbatical or by political analysts. All of them begin with the obligatory gallop through the centuries "to set the scene" -- and all of them get bogged down in the same set of shopworn clichés and wind up making a hash of it.
The reason is that most have never read anything serious on the subject. Rebecca West's magnum opus, _Black Lamb and Gray Falcon_, which many of these writers quote but few have ever read all the way through, is at times immensely entertaining, but is not in any sense a serious work of history. They should've picked up Malcolm's book instead.
Noel Malcolm's _Kosovo: A Short History_ may not be short, but it is quite simply the only history of Kosovo in English that is worth reading.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched and written, flawed by its partisan politics, 30 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
I was interested to read what has become a standard work on Kosovo and its conflicts. The online reviews are divided into two camps: "great book" and "one-sided propaganda". The problem is that both are partly right, it is well-written and well-researched in a neglected area, and I would have given it top marks but for the "partisan politics" problem, which is also real. This mainly affects the later part of the book, the parts dealing with Kosovos early history are good, and the book is worth it just for them.
The problem with the recent part is that, as Noel Malcolm observes, nationality is as much myth and belief as anything else. He skilfully outlines and deconstructs the myths and pretensions of the Serbian side, but never subjects other side(s)in Kosovos conflicts to the same critique, being largely uncritical in accepting their assertions and evaluations.
I felt a little deceived that the book moved from history to polemic without making the shift clear, and it meant I found I didn?t altogether trust the earlier narrative. It was a bit like reading a well-researched history of Northern Ireland, written by Gerry Adams or Ian Paisley. The best idea is to read it, but in conjunction with Misha Glenny?s ?The Balkans? or ?The Fall of Yugoslavia? or Tim Judah?s ?The Serbs?...
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A balanced history of Kosovo, 19 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
Historians covering the history of Kosovo/Kosova have tended to be either pro Albanian or pro Serbian. Noel Malcom's book is a refreshing change, he has made an effort to be impartial giving a balanced view of events.
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6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A short History or a very "short" book?, 24 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
This could have been a great book. An interesting subject, with great commercial potential (no doubt a best-seller anyway), a talented writer. It is such a pity that it mostly reads not as a History book in the western scholar sense but rather like a typically partial "History" produced by local propaganda standards (more often than not the Albanian).
Dr Malcolm's studies in Bosnia and the attrocities there must have played a role, since he met the ugly face of Serbian nationalism - yet every Balkan nationalism is ugly and Albanian is no exception. Although it is to his credit that the author most likely wanted to stop a similar bloodshed this book is a political diatribe more than it is History, even short.
And obvious historical facts and statements are not enough to cover thinly disguised conclusions: Serbians having "only themselves to blame" (chapter 16, "Kosovo under Tito", last paragraph) for having too many abortions (!!!) is one of the most disturbing and shocking pieces of "History" I've ever read, worthy of the worst traditions of handling biological facts to justify political analysis. Is he proud about this statement and will he be proud in ten years?
The devil is of course in the detail, and that is even more obvious now that Kosovo is under International protection. Let us hope that now that his aim of defending the oppressed Kosovar Albanians is achieved (but sadly not gypsies or slav muslims not to mention serbs, as I presume he would also like) , Dr Malcolm will revisit the subject with more impartiality, which he owes to the scores of readers that honoured him by buying this book and were so let down. It is such a great pity!
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9 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a partisan opinion rather than 'history', 21 July 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
In general, I was disappointed both by the quality and the content. The book is clearly biased in favor of one side. I don't mind people expressing their political views, but I would expect them not to use delicate words, like 'History' to describe their work. A title like 'Kosova: a political opinion', would be much more honest. To write 'History' is to go through all available sources, from all involved parts. Unfortunately Dr Malcolm refers explicitely to Albanian sources. If this is not an example of partisan historiography, then what is it?
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How excellent!, 4 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
This book was truly helpful. I am a student and used the book for a reference for a research paper that I was doing for a comprehensive history/literature course that I am taking. The book was wonderful and I used it as my primary source in writing my paper.
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4 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So obviously biased - not worth wasting time or money., 30 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kosovo: A Short History (Paperback)
The book was obviously written in a hurry. Little reseach and little knowledge of the region shows on nearly every page. Most supporting reference material comes from Albanian sources.
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Kosovo: A Short History
Kosovo: A Short History by Noel Malcolm (Paperback - 23 Oct 1998)
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