Albanian studies have been neglected outside Albania and other countries where Albanian is spoken, but with the present volume, Gawrych, a Turkey specialist and associate professor of Middle East history at Baylor University, has made an important contribution to closing this gap. He has chronicled the late nineteenth-century romantic nationalist movement known to Albanians as the rilindja or rebirth.
The opening historical act in the Albanian national awakening was the organization of the League of Prizren at a meeting of 300 notables in that city in Kosovo in 1878. The aims of the League of Prizren were dual and, in some respects, contradictory. These were first, to defend the Albanians from partition among the Balkan Christian powers and Greece at the contemporaneous Congress of Berlin by keeping the Albanian lands within the Ottoman domain and second, to preserve and extend the rights of Albanians as a separate ethnicity within the same Turkish polity.
Gawrych concentrates on Sami Frashëri (1850-1904), the outstanding personality of the League of Prizren. Today better known as Şemseddin Sami Bey, and as an educator and journalist rather than a critic of imperial institutions and linguistic reformer, he was a major figure in the late Ottoman Empire and is usually described as one of the Turkish munevverler (intellectuals, Enlighteners).
While this concentration is understandable, especially as Gawrych draws mainly on Turkish (rather than Albanian) sources, the volume should have included a wider treatment of other prominent figures in the Albanian independence movement, including the Catholic figure Gjergj Fishta (1871-1940).
With the support of the beys of the northern Albanian sancaklar (districts), the Frashëri and his two brothers, along with the League of Prizren, began the struggle for independence that culminated in the withdrawal of Turkish power and the proclamation of the Albanian state in 1912.
If there is a flaw in this work, it is Gawrych's almost exclusive dependence on non-Albanian sources. Still, the story of the League of Prizren, the Frashëris, and their colleagues and successors is remarkable and assists in understanding the continuing challenges of Albanian identity today.