Elena Kostova's Medieval Melnik from the End of the 12th to the End of the 14th Century: The Historical Vicissitudes of a Small Balkan Town makes available to the English-speaking scholars one of the very Jew comprehensive studies of medieval Balkan urban settlements. Using exhaustively the written sources of the period, Kostova deftly integrates information from topography, archaeology, art history, and architecture as well as sheds light on the evolution of Melnik, a small but strategically located urban center in the south-central Balkans during the High and Late Middle Ages. The gist of the account is political history, a dramatic story of the incessant struggle between the three local political heavyweights, Bulgaria, Byzantium, and Serbia, and a series of local magnates, Jor controlling the town. The approach is dictated by the nature of the available evidence, but the scarce sources permit glimpses into Melniks economic, ethnic, and ecclesiastical evolution as well. Although strictly local in scope, the study highlights the characteristics of a typical urban center in the Balkans, and permits comparisons with similar settlements in Byzantium, Catholic Europe, and the Middle East. Students of medieval urbanism and historians interested in the late medieval Balkans will find Kostova s work an instructive contribution to their knowledge of the region and its specifics.
Dr. Kiril Petkov, Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls