The Balkans were a dangerous place in the early twentieth century.
The Ottoman Empire was on the verge of collapse, losing control of areas like Albania where the people were calling for political rights.
Disease, the threat of violence and war were looming over the people who lived in primitive conditions.
Yet, it was into this world that Mary Edith Durham, a thirty-seven-year-old Edwardian lady dressed in boots, long skirt, umbrella, and straw hat, entered.
She would go on to spend the next twenty years of her life travelling through the Balkans, focusing particularly on Albania and Kosovo, some of the most underdeveloped regions of Europe.
High Alabania is Durham’s most famous work and confirmed her position as the pre-eminent expert on the customs and society of the Balkans.
Through this work Durham explains the history of the region, geography, and cultural interactions including their almost medieval blood honor system, which led feuds between families to persist for generations.
Durham was a staunch supporter of the Albanian people and is still revered in the country, for example the fourth President Alfred Moisiu described her as “one of the most distinguished personalities of the Albanian world during the last century”.
Her work provides fascinating insight in this colorful region with its troubled past.
“a tremendous sense of honor, justice, and humor. Her verve and funniness make her irresistible.”The New York Review of Books
“her perceptions remain so pertinent that we know a correspondent who operated there [in 1999] with an old edition of this book in lieu of a Nato briefing.” The Guardian
Mary Edith Durham was a British traveller and author who wrote a number of anthropological accounts of the Balkans in the early twentieth century. High Albania was published in 1909 and Durham passed away in 1944.