In This Review

Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed
Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed
By Robert J. Donia and John V. A. Fine, Jr.
Columbia University Press, 1994, 318 pp.

In a quiet, detached way the authors of this study make the tragedy of Bosnia seem all the more monstrous. They are two historians: Fine, a medieval specialist on Bosnia, recounts the history from the Middle Ages through the Ottoman conquest in 1463 to its collapse in 1878; Donia, a historian of the Habsburg era, takes over from there, reconstructing the story from the arrival of Austro-Hungarian forces to the destruction of the country in the present period. With the calm authority of their craft, they firmly crush the silliness of popular conception. Not only, they make plain, has Bosnia existed as a separate, identifiable entity over all these years, with borders more intact than either Croatia or Serbia, but, until the present century, it has never known ethnic conflict. Its history, they insist, has through the centuries been one of tolerated diversity and practical compromises. Violence has occurred and much of it, but not among the three major groups constituting the country, let alone over ethnic identity or even very much over religion.

The book is only 270 pages of small-paged text, simply written, with something of the character of a skilled high-school text. That is appropriate. Given what the warring parties in the region are doing to their history, for others to be saving and preserving it for future generations is a modestly noble act.