"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Laura Silber and Alan LittleIn 1995, BBC broadcast a six-part documentary entitled "Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation", which won wide praise for its in-depth reporting and extensive use of previously unseen archival footage.
Two of the journalists who were deeply involved in creating the series, Laura Silber and Alan Little, would subsequently go on to produce a book by the same title based on the body of documentation gathered for the production of the BBC series. This book would also garner much-deserved acclaim, and nearly fifteen years after its publication remains probably the best widely availabe single-volume English-language history of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
As the Introduction makes clear, the authors intended this book to be a dispassionate, fact-based work of sober reportage; to quote:
"It is also important to state what this book is not. It is not a crie de coeur of the "Save Bosnia Now" type (though we both believe that Bosnia could, and should, have been saved). It is not a polemic against the failure of the West to protect the weak against the strong, or even to honor its own promises. And it is not a book about journalism or journalists; it is not a "we were there and it was horrible" account of life on the front line."
This disclaimer is accurate. The authors are willing to let the facts speak for themselves, and they do powerfully in this book. For someone who knows nothing of how the wars started or what happened once they did, this is the place to start. The authors do not dwell too deeply on history--the story begins with Milosevic's rise to power, after only the briefest of historical sketches in the Introduction to set the stage. There is no examination of cultural or social undercurrents to the violence. The authors are concerned with political decisions made by mostly unscrupulous leaders who were willing to utilize the latent power of nationalism to fill the political void left by Tito's death.
The Introduction is brief, and sets the stage for the story to come. There are multiple maps, a "Cast of Characters" giving names and a brief identifying entry for approximately 175 persons, a list of acronyms, and a sense that the reader is in the hands of two authors who are able to present sober, even-keeled analysis without jettisoning their respective moral compasses in a misguided quest to be "neutral" or "objective."