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View Full Version : Book Review: Scanderbeg, From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero


Stratiotes
09-20-2007, 05:17 PM
ISBN: 1850439419 by Harry Hodgkinson (based on my Amazon.com review)

Being an Albanian national hero, Scanderbeg (alternatively spelled, Skanderbeg) is something of a political hot-potato in the Balkans. Study of his campaigns are valuable in their unconventional approach which many in this group will recognize as "textbook" guerrilla warfare - centuries before Mao and Che.

It is unfortunate that good biographies of this most interesting guerrilla captain are out of print. Although Mr. Hodgkinson questions a great deal about the legends of Scanderbeg to the point of suggesting his subject may even have been a monster of sorts, this work does provide some critical details left unexplored by previous biographers (Barleti, Moore, Noli). There is a sense that Mr. Hodgkinson is overcritical but it is difficult to contend that previous biographers were critical at all.

My favorite Scanderbeg biography by Mr. Clement Moore (based on Marin Barleti's - both works are now out of print) is even more difficult to find than this one but worth the search. Mr. Fan Noli's biography is far too brief making this, I think, a superior choice. Where Mr. Moore writes a glowing military history rich with geographical and tactical details sure to please the military historian, Mr. Hodgkinson has provided less of the military details and more of the geo-political and strategic backdrop that Barleti and Moore biographies lacked. I would highly recommend reading those less critical biographies and temper their gushing praise with Mr. Hodgkinson's probing questions.

The prose are clear and Mr. Hodgkinson has an entertaining style. It makes for a good historical read but may make the admirer of Scanderbeg a bit uneasy in the critique, particularly surrounding the legend of his youth. If you are an admirer of Scanderbeg, try to get past those early chapters to be reminded of his genius in battle. Scanderbeg's ability to outwit so many with so few is, in itself, legend enough to fascinate any student of military history and guerrilla/unconventional warfare enthusiasts in particular.