The British and the Balkans: forming images of foreign lands, 1900-1950

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authored


The book is a close study of the history of the image of the Balkans in Britain in the first half of the 20th century. It takes the history of British-Balkan contacts out of the shadow of the violent 1990s, and historicises them in all their richness and contradictions. Even more, it offers new insights into how cross-cultural contacts take place, how stereotypes get formed and how they can be overcome. The book makes two main interventions. First, it aims to bring back the human actors to the centre of the study of cross-cultural contacts. Who actually travelled to the Balkans and what relations were developed between the visitors and the locals? Who were those that ended up writing on the region, what was their relation to it, and what were their motives? The first chapters of the book bring thus to the foreground a very rich and often complex relationship between the Balkans and a wide range of British visitors, from the war correspondents of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the Macedonian front veterans of the First World War, to the travellers of the interwar years, and the secret agents parachuted in the Balkan mountains in the Second World War. At the background, the book also explores the fascinating and ongoing power-game that took place back in Britain, regarding which private images would finally reach the public sphere. This question often turned into a classic power-knowledge struggle that involved experts, politicians, diplomats, academia and the media, as well as the Balkans' own agents of influence. The second half of the book takes a closer look at the images that were actually available to the British public, moving beyond the more oft cited literary sources, and challenging the linear reading of Balkan images as permanently negative or always concerned with violence. It is little acknowledged today that for long periods developments in the region were often viewed with positive interest or even with enthusiastic support, as was the case with the initial emergence of the small nation-state, the eviction of the Ottomans from Europe during the First Balkan War, the efforts in the 1930s for regional détente, or the resistance against the Germans and their allies during both World Wars.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages224
ISBN (Print)9781441172464
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2011


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