3 out of 4 stars
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Bosnian Phoenix: The Singular Role of Bosnia in the Transformation and Preservation of Europe is a scholarly written history of the South Slavic region of Bosnia by Miljan Peter Ilich.
With almost six hundred pages including a voluminous bibliography, the book is divided into twenty two chapters that cover the origins of the Bosnian people to the nation’s final fall to the Turks in 1528, besides the Introduction.
Though the primary objective of this book is to ‘help readers understand the conflictual relations in Bosnia by analyzing the inadequately recognized great historical significance of that nation in regional and European affairs’, it also emphasizes the amazing resilience of Bosnia and, presents five widely accepted historical myths affecting Bosnia and examine the underlying reality by uncovering the forgotten history of the region.
Written in chronological order, the book discusses the early beginning of Bosnia including religious orientation. Moreover, the author features not only the great rulers of Bosnia such as Kulin Ban and Ban Tvrtko but also Bosnian leaders like Hrvoje Vukčić and Herceg Stephen Vukčić Kosača and other historical figures including King Louis I of Hungary and Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Furthermore, the book offers new interpretation of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 and attempts to shed some light to some other issues such as the death of King Stephen Tomaš.
This is a very enjoyable history book. I find it informative, well referenced and objective as the author, in case of differing historical accounts of an event, is very careful to present both versions but makes sure to emphasize what is more possible. Events are described in painfully vivid details and the historical figures are supplied with short character profiles that it is easy to imagine them as real live people in action.
While what I like most in this book is the emphasis on the importance of religion, religious practices and religious freedom, and on the role of female, especially female rulers, in the history of this nation, I think the most important part is the emphasis on the admirable resilience of the Bosnian people as they fought for independence again and again.
Needless to say, I like this book a lot. However, this is not an easy read. Names, dates and places can be confusing and so are the events that took place. It requires focus, undivided attention, genuine interest and maybe a little bit of imagination for visualization. Moreover, the variation in spelling of some words like Patarines and Paterenes and Jacub and Jakoub can be confusing. Furthermore, there are several noticeable errors within the entire book like misspelled words (devine instead of divine) missing apostrophe (Bosnians flight) missing words and typo errors like Bogomilsm and myrtardoom. If not for the errors, I could have easily given this book a perfect score.
I, therefore, rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is informative, engaging, well-referenced and objective. I recommend it to history teachers, history majors and those who simply enjoy history. Detailed descriptions of atrocities and cruelty may not be suitable for young readers.
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