Byzantium and Bulgaria. A comparative study across the early medieval frontier

Robert Browning




I first set foot in Bulgaria in October 1944, as an officer on the staff of the Allied Control Commission. Since then I have made several visits, and learnt to know something of the country, its people, and their history. Gradually the conviction has grown upon me that the course of the relations between Bulgaria and the Byzantine empire in the ninth and tenth centuries is not merely an interesting example of the complexity of the process of acculturation; it established a pattern for Byzantine relations with the other peoples of Eastern Europe as one after another they embraced Christianity; it determined the main features of the culture and of the developing national identity of these peoples, among whom the Russians were the most numerous and powerful. In a sense, then, the events in this ill-defined no-man’s land of the northern Balkans a thousand years ago played a not insignificant part in shaping Europe as a historical entity. I was therefore very glad to be invited to contribute a volume on Bulgaria and Byzantium in the present series of comparative studies. If it has turned out longer and different in form from other books in the series, I can only plead that a straightforward synchronic comparative study would have been valueless, and probably impossible.


My warmest thanks are due in the first place to the many Bulgarian scholars who through their works and through personal contact have broadened and deepened my understanding of the early history of their country. In particular I should like to acknowledge my debt to Academician Veselin Beševliev and to Professors Dimitŭr Angelov and Ivan Dujčev. Byzantine historians are numerous, and I have learnt much from many among them. My debt in the present work to Professor George Ostrogorsky and Professor Paul Lemerle is evident. Maurice Temple Smith and August Frugé both gave encouragement and were uncommercial enough to undertake the publication of a book whose sales are bound to be limited. Finally, the book would never have been published were it not for Susan Archer, who typed the manuscript, much of it twice.





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