Sarajevo is a town of ghosts – Ottoman Turkish, Austro-Hungarian, communist Yugoslav – and it has rather a touch-ing little museum, not far from the spot where, in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. When Serbia, as part of the newly formed kingdom of Yugoslavia, came out of the First World War as a victor, the footprints of the assassin were captured in a concrete pavement slab, and there was even a celebratory film made of the event (the museum displays both). Christopher Clark rightly says that the modern world’s experience of Serbian nationalism, with the Bosnian massacres and the shelling of Sarajevo, might cause some to look askance at the role of Belgrade in the triggering of the First World War.
Serbia was made by brutality, whether with the murder of the king and queen in 1903 (with which the book effectively begins), or the killing and expulsion of millions of Albanians, Bulgarians and Turks in the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. What is curious is the attraction that Serbia held for