A sweeping history of southeastern Europe from antiquity to the present that reveals it to be a vibrant crossroads of trade, ideas, and religions.
We often think of the Balkans as a region beset by turmoil and backwardness, but from late antiquity to the present it has been a dynamic meeting place of cultures and religions. Combining deep insight with narrative flair, The Great Cauldron invites us to reconsider the history of this intriguing, diverse region as essential to the story of global Europe.
Marie-Janine Calic reveals the many ways in which southeastern Europe’s position at the crossroads of East and West shaped continental and global developments. The nascent merchant capitalism of the Mediterranean world helped the Balkan knights fight the Ottomans in the fifteenth century. The deep pull of nationalism led a young Serbian bookworm to spark the conflagration of World War I. The late twentieth century saw political Islam spread like wildfire in a region where Christians and Muslims had long lived side by side. Along with vivid snapshots of revealing moments in time, including Krujë in 1450 and Sarajevo in 1984, Calic introduces fascinating figures rarely found in standard European histories. We meet the Greek merchant and poet Rhigas Velestinlis, whose revolutionary pamphlet called for a general uprising against Ottoman tyranny in 1797. And the Croatian bishop Ivan Dominik Stratiko, who argued passionately for equality of the sexes and whose success with women astonished even his friend Casanova.
Calic’s ambitious reappraisal expands and deepens our understanding of the ever-changing mixture of peoples, faiths, and civilizations in this much-neglected nexus of empire.
Panoramic and convincingly presented history of the region…Calic is an authoritative guide. Her book is a work of ambitious chronological and thematic scope, taking the story from Alexander the Great to the present day.
Since the early twentieth century, southeastern Europe has been disparaged as ‘the Balkans,’ a term that often connotes tribalism and violence. In this detailed and comprehensive history, Calic nimbly seeks to broaden the way the region is understood. The book ranges from the advent of Ottoman dominion to the collapse of Yugoslavia.
Calic provides a sweeping overview of the history of this region and its people, from the late antiquity to the present day… Informed, comprehensive, and methodical, The Great Cauldron provides valuable insight into southeastern Europe and its turbulent past.
Covers in detail the history of a geographical region that currently comprises more than a dozen nations, from its earliest recorded tribes through to modernity…An impressive work.
An outstanding book…An original and thought-provoking history of Southeastern Europe that should be read by both specialists and scholars whose expertise lies elsewhere, but who seek to understand the region. This is a fascinating story of how global ideas—transcontinental, transborder, and translocal contacts, exchanges, and movements of peoples and goods—shaped Europe’s southeast, the region also known, frequently pejoratively, as the Balkans…A monumental work.
An indispensable new history of southeastern Europe…It stands out for its integration of economic and demographic data with political and cultural history.
The best text by far on the history of the Balkans yet written, and I suspect it will remain the standard for a long time.
On rare but memorable occasions, a book comes along that fills a vacuum one did not know existed. In an era when nationalist stereotypes and conflicts dominate, Calic tells a totally absorbing, transformative story of the far more significant role of transborder, and even global exchanges of people, ideas, and things that have defined the Balkan Peninsula—from Romania to Albania to Greece—over two thousand years. So much for the myth of a peripheral backwater! Her eloquent narrative tells us much more than the story of southeastern Europe; it also sheds light on our interpretations of contemporary history and our assumptions even beyond Europe.
Calic convincingly and thoroughly shows the Balkans to be a quintessential ‘world region,’ one whose historical character has been decidedly cosmopolitan, diverse, and dynamic. She successfully challenges and overturns the usual assumptions that uncritically reproduce stereotypes of Balkan parochialism and isolationism.
There has long been a need for a comprehensive, new history of Europe’s controversial quadrant. Calic’s lucid, authoritative account, from ancient times and ethnic origins to warfare and recovery since 1989, is a stellar example of the new global history. She sees southeastern Europe as a cauldron in which its peoples and polities are stirred together with Europe’s longest and largest set of transnational and transcultural influences. Throughout, she shows how these interrelations belied any separate Balkan definition of this all-too-accessible corner of the continent.
- 736 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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