The Battle Backwards: A Comparative Study of the Battle of Kosovo Polje (1389) and the Munich Agreement (1938) as Political Myths

    Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandling


    This thesis is a comparative work in which two historical events are defined and examined as political myths. The definition immediately raises problems as the habitual use of the term myth by historians implies falsehood. The author argues that the traditional dichotomy of mythos and logos is more problematic than is habitually understood. Rather, he argues that certain highly-resonant historical episodes are a disconcerting mixture of fact and fiction, and that their appeal to their target audience is predicated on an authority that overrides concerns about factual accuracy. Furthermore, as this is a study of civic religion and the politics of public commemoration, the thesis problematises both the status of the sacred in (supposedly) secularised societies and the role of the rational in politics.

    Two cases are presented. These are the Battle of Kosovo Polje of 1389 and the Munich Agreement of 1938. Noted is that both events have been extraordinarily influential; that they have a paradigmatic status and an authority that has often been used to confer political legitimacy. The comparative method uses several factors: durability, factual accuracy, ownership, flexibility, level of usage and media of transmission.

    The examination of the legacy of the Battle of Kosovo Polje study is longitudinal. It seeks to establish to the small degree possible what actually happened in 1389, and contrast this with the popular narrative. This popular narrative, most especially the vibrant tradition of Serbian epic poetry, is then explored at length through a well-known theory of myth analysis. Previous studies have not approached this oral tradition at length or in a systematic manner. The work then offers different examples of the agents and events inspired by the legacy of the battle, among them the most important events in the modern Balkans. It then attempts to systemise the different modalities through which the event has been instrumental.

    The examination of the Munich Agreement also offers an overview of the events of the 1930s, and contrasts this with a highly simplistic narrative that has been extracted from these events. This is in strong contrast to the Kosovo legacy; in that case there were few sources to indicate what happened; as regards the Munich Agreement and the policy of appeasement from which it grew, much is known, but the record is largely ignored at the expense of an inaccurate but seemingly deeply-compelling narrative. The political usage of Munich is then examined via several cases, typically conflict situations. Emphasis is placed on the statements and justifications of politicians in different periods and political cultures. Modes of argumentation are examined, and a singular pattern is detected. Finally the thesis compares the two cases, their differences and similarities, with the ambition of solidifying the concept of a political myth, highlighting the extraordinary influence of the usable past on the present.
    Tryckta ISBN975-952-10-9084-4
    Elektroniska ISBN978-952-10-9085-1
    StatusPublicerad - dec 2013
    MoE-publikationstypG4 Doktorsavhandling (monografi)


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