Book Review: “Sir Noel Malcolm’s Albanianada” by Mal Berisha

Book Review: “Sir Noel Malcolm’s Albanianada” by Mal Berisha

“Sir Noel Malcolm’s Albanianada,” authored by Mal Berisha, offers a profound exploration of Albanian history through the lens of one of the most respected historians of our time, Sir Noel Malcolm. The book is a meticulously composed narrative that encapsulates Malcolm’s extensive work on Albania, particularly focusing on his three seminal books: “Kosovo: A Short History,” “Agents of Empire,” and “Rebels, Believers, Survivors.”

Mal Berisha, a seasoned diplomat and former Ambassador of Albania to the United Kingdom, provides a unique perspective on Malcolm’s contributions. This work is not merely a biography; rather, it is an homage to Malcolm’s scholarly impact on Albanian historical discourse and a reflection on the broader implications of his research.

Structure and Content

The book is divided into several sections, beginning with an introduction by Mal Berisha, which sets the tone for the reader. He shares his personal experiences and motivations for writing this book, emphasizing his admiration for Malcolm’s dedication to uncovering and presenting the nuanced history of Albanians.
The core of the book is structured around detailed examinations of Malcolm’s three major works. Berisha’s narrative is interwoven with interviews and testimonies from various scholars and experts who have engaged with Malcolm’s research. This format provides a comprehensive view of Malcolm’s methodology, the historical context of his works, and their reception and impact.

Kosovo: A Short History

Berisha delves into Malcolm’s “Kosovo: A Short History,” highlighting its pivotal role in shaping international understanding of Kosovo’s complex past. Published at a critical juncture during the Kosovo conflict, Malcolm’s work provided a well-researched counter-narrative to the prevailing political rhetoric. Berisha underscores the book’s influence on international policy and its contribution to Kosovo’s eventual path to independence. The detailed recounting of historical events and Malcolm’s meticulous scholarship are presented as instrumental in altering perceptions and informing diplomatic decisions.

Agents of Empire

In discussing “Agents of Empire,” Berisha explores how Malcolm brings to light the intricate interplay between the Albanian territories and the wider Mediterranean world during the 16th century. The book portrays the lives and activities of two Albanian families within the Ottoman and Venetian empires, revealing the complexities of allegiance, identity, and power. Berisha appreciates Malcolm’s ability to humanize historical figures, making their stories accessible and engaging while maintaining rigorous academic standards.

Rebels, Believers, Survivors

“Rebels, Believers, Survivors” is another cornerstone of Malcolm’s oeuvre, focusing on the resilience and adaptability of Albanians through centuries of tumultuous history. Berisha reflects on how this book encapsulates the spirit of the Albanian people, chronicling their struggles and triumphs. He praises Malcolm’s balanced approach, which neither romanticizes nor vilifies, but rather presents a nuanced and empathetic portrayal of a nation’s journey.

A Scholarly Tribute

Throughout “Albanianada,” Berisha’s admiration for Malcolm is palpable. He positions Malcolm not only as a historian but also as a bridge between cultures. The inclusion of interviews with notable figures from both the Albanian and British academic and political spheres reinforces the significance of Malcolm’s work. These testimonies offer diverse perspectives on the impact of Malcolm’s research, underscoring his role in fostering a deeper understanding between nations.

The Documentary Film

An intriguing aspect of the book is its connection to a documentary film series also produced by Berisha, titled “Gratitude is the Parameter of Human Nobility.” This series aims to further disseminate Malcolm’s contributions to a wider audience. The book includes the full text of interviews conducted for the documentary, providing an additional layer of insight into Malcolm’s influence and legacy.


“Sir Noel Malcolm’s Albanianada” is a significant contribution to Albanian historiography and a heartfelt tribute to a scholar whose work has had a profound impact on the understanding of Albanian history. Mal Berisha’s dual role as both a diplomat and a historian enriches the narrative, offering readers a multifaceted view of Malcolm’s work and its implications.
Berisha’s writing is both informative and evocative, successfully conveying the depth of Malcolm’s scholarship and the enduring relevance of his contributions. For anyone interested in Albanian history, this book is an essential read, providing a comprehensive overview of Sir Noel Malcolm’s pivotal works and their lasting impact on both academic circles and international relations.

MA in Writing,
University of Galway, Ireland