The underground Macedonian Revolutionary Organization recruited and mobilized over 20,000 supporters to take up arms against the Ottoman Empire between 1893 and 1903. Challenging conventional wisdom about the role of ethnic and national identity in Balkan history, Keith Brown focuses on social and cultural mechanisms of loyalty to describe the circuits of trust and terror—webs of secret communications and bonds of solidarity—that linked migrant workers, remote villagers, and their leaders in common cause. Loyalties were covertly created and maintained through acts of oath-taking, record-keeping, arms-trading, and in the use and management of deadly violence.
Introduction: The Archival Imagination at Work
1. Terminal Loyalties and Unruly Archives: On Thinking Past the Nation
2. The Horizons of the "Peasant": Circuits of Labor and Insurgency
3. The Oath and the Curse: Subversions of Christianity
4. The Archive and the Account Book: Inscriptions of Terror
5. The eta and the jatak: Inversions of Tradition, Conversions of Capital
6. Guns for Sale: Feud, Trade, and Solidarity in the Arming of MRO
Conclusion: The Archival Imagination and the Teleo-logic of Nation
Appendix 1. Documents of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization
Appendix 2. Biographies from the Ilinden Dossier
Engaging, theoretically sophisticated, and ethnographically detailed. . . . Makes a very complicated period of Balkan history admirably clear.
Loring M. Danforth
Drawing on over two decades of engagement in anthropology, archival and social history, and fieldwork in the Balkan region, Keith Brown has crafted a subtle and compelling account of revolutionary insurgency in turn-of-the-century Macedonia. His analytical focus on loyalties, rather than identities, goes beyond critiques of nationalism in enabling powerful new understandings of the region’s histories and its continuing social dynamics. Elucidating 'the circuits travelled by things, people and ideas,' Loyal Unto Death reveals how, against a backdrop of Ottoman governance, competing nationalisms, rural poverty, and labour migration to North America, a modern revolutionary organisation transformed existing solidarities into a new sense of Macedonian selfhood and built commitment to an agenda of political autonomy.
Jane K. Cowan
University of Sussex
Keith Brown does a fantastic job of reconstructing the feeling inside Macedonia itself at a time when Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria were vying with Turkey to possess it. He makes clear how important it is not to impose the present on the past. By thinking outside the box of nationalism, Brown improves our understanding of the past and also contributes to understanding the present.
University of Chicago
This book is, to my mind, exactly the kind of work that needs to be done in order to understand civil wars, insurgencies, nationalism, and rebellions, and to get away from what the author rightfully critiques as ‘pidgin social science.
Loyal unto Death is an innovative work that should inspire debate.
Loyal Unto Death is a fascinating account of an anti-imperialist struggle that pushes readers to think beyond the nation. It will serve as a powerful resource for both students and scholars embarking on historical ethnography . . . Likewise, the book will be extremely valuable for those working on revolutionary movements in search of strategies to draw out the lived experiences of underground movements.
[Keith Brown] takes as his central problem the question of how at the start of the twentieth century the Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (MRO) was able to grow so rapidly from a tiny band of conspirators to an organization capable of fielding some 20,000 participants in the Ilinden uprising of 1903. 119.5
American Historical Review