The Sandžak

A History

September 2013 9781849042451 356pp


One of the few remaining unexamined pieces of the Balkan jigsaw, the Sandžak — a multi-ethnic region straddling the border between Serbia and Montenegro — is heir to a complex and contested history. From the emergence and collapse of the first medieval Serbian kingdom, through the Ottoman rule, the Balkan Wars, the First and Second World Wars and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the history of the Sandžak is one characterised by tumult and flux. Yet despite the ‘Sandžak Question’ being the focus of the Great Powers in the years preceding the First Balkan War, it remains something of a mystery to both scholars and students of European history.

The Sandžak: A History attempts to demystify the enigma of this little-known part of the Western Balkans. The first detailed history of the area in the English language, the book offers an intricate yet succinct analysis of the religious, ethnic and political dynamics that shaped the Sandžak. The authors lead us through conflicting narratives to provide a comprehensive and concise history of this fascinating and complex region.


‘…a broad overview of Balkan history and the place of the Sandžak within it, with some valuable insights into particular episodes and an introduction to the previously opaque role of the territory in the history of the former Yugoslavia during and after the break-up.’ — Slavic Review

The Sandzak offers a good overview of the history of a region that is all too often omitted from European consciousness. Morrison and Roberts have achieved their goal of producing an unbiased monograph on the area. […] The book offers illuminating insights — to historians of Southeast Europe in particular, since the detailed information is skilfully embedded in the context of the longue durée, but also as a guide for anyone interested in the region and its development.’  — Franziska Zaugg, Historisches Institut, Universität Bern, H-Soz-U-Kult

‘Morrison & Roberts have written the first detailed scholarly analysis of an important but neglected part of what was once Yugoslavia. The book deals convincingly with the historical evolution of the Sandžak, its position during the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s, the realignment of Yugoslavia’s Muslims along national lines, the important role played by Muslim minorities in internal Montenegrin developments, and the conflicts between Serbs and Muslims (Bosniaks) and among the Slavic-speaking Muslims of Serbia. Well written, well-researched and fascinating to read, this book goes far beyond merely a study of the local politics of a small territory.’ — Ambassador Geert Ahrens (ret.); author of Diplomacy on the Edge: Conflict and the Minorities Working Group of the Conference on Yugoslavia.

‘A rigorous and extremely interesting volume regarding the intricacies of a critical region that straddles the border between Serbia and Montenegro. Exploring the tangled history and turbulent recent politics of the Sandžak region, a pivotal crossroads of different ethnic and religious groups in Southeastern Europe, the study provides an excellent and timely analysis of the challenges facing multinational states and regions, and also offers important insights into the dimensions which affect the management and stability of potential zones of conflict. Scholars, students and policy-makers will all find the book a definitive work for understanding the region’s future development.’ — Leonard J. Cohen, Emeritus Professor, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada; author of Serpent in the Bosom: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milošević

‘The Sandžak occupies a crucial position in the Western Balkans. At times in its varied history it has been the focal point of European, and even world attention. If the Western Balkans erupts again the Sandžak could become a region of critical importance. Its varied history therefore needs to be known, and Morrison and Roberts have provided an excellent introduction to that history. This is the first English-language history of the area and it will be essential reading for all those concerned with the Balkans.’ — Richard Crampton, Professor of East European History, University of Oxford 1996-2006;  author of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and Beyond

‘This impressive volume is the first book in English — or any other Western language — to provide a comprehensive historical overview of the Sandžak …  essentially terra incognita, not only for well-rounded generalists but, curiously, also for most specialists in Yugoslav/Balkan affairs. [This is] a quality history text that will be especially appreciated by readers already familiar with the general contours (not to mention the numerous zigs and zags) of ancient, medieval, and modern Balkan/Yugoslav history.’ — John Treadway, Professor of History and International Studies, University of Richmond

‘Morrison and Roberts have made a very valuable contribution to the literature in the field of Balkan history and politics by producing a long overdue historical overview of Sandžak. This engaging and thoroughly researched work treats the border region from the Palaeolithic era until the present day.’ — Rory Archer, Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz

‘Since the Sandžak lacks statehood, it lacks an obvious lodestar towards which its historian can head, which makes Elizabeth Roberts and Kenneth Morrison’s admirable book a rather singular curio. The authors have produced an accessible top-down political history of the region (based mainly on an impressive range of Serbo–Croat and English-language secondary sources) … This is a very useful book about a very important topic in Balkan history.’ — English Historical Review

‘Kenneth Morrison and Elizabeth Roberts have written the first English-language historical survey of this academically neglected region … The authors deserve praise for their thorough research and extensive use of the Yugoslav secondary literature, which they have effectively synthesized into a coherent whole. They notably integrate previously neglected or disparate strands of the historiography, such as from local Bosniak-Muslim historians, aptly utilizing their insights without reproducing their ideological biases.’ — Slavonic and East European Review


Kenneth Morrison is a Reader in Modern Southeast European History at De Montfort University, Leicester, and was a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics in 2011-12. He is the author of Montenegro: A Modern History.

Elizabeth Roberts is a Balkan scholar and former diplomat, who taught Southeast European History at universities in the Republic of Ireland and the United States of America. A recognised authority on Balkan history, she is the co-author of The Sandžak: A History, also published by Hurst.

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