Today marks the ominous commemoration of the one of the most significant historical events of the 20th century: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist. This event would bring Europe and other parts of the world to war, and would signal the beginning of new empires and the end of others. The conditions in Europe, and particularly within the polyglot Austro-Hungarian empire, leading up to the assassination provided the necessary motive and kindling for conflict as the empire could no longer hold its nationalities together through a centralized system of German and Hungarian predominance. Earlier conflicts such as the First Balkan War (1912-13) worried European powers but didn’t rattle the system of alliances that had kept relative peace. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand, as a single event, sparked the pent up desire of new ethnic identities, dominant European powers, and those desiring a greater global role to start a war that few realized would forever transform the European continent and indeed the world.
There are some great resources online that detail these events, and follow the course of history following the assassination to the outbreak of World War I. BBC has a wonderful live coverage of the events surrounding the assassination and its impact in addition to some fantastic resources and materials. BBC will be featured among the links below.
BBCs Live Reporting of the Countdown to War
The world did not know it, but the fault lines of Europe had started to show. Princip’s bullet had lodged at the heart of Europe’s precarious peace. Within 37 days, the most powerful and far reaching empires of the age would be engaged in the first truly global conflict. What happened to lead the world to war?
BBC Online World War I Page
37 Days: Countdown to World War One
In the summer of 1914, Europe went to war. It began a conflict that would engulf almost the entire world. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand pushed existing animosities and alliances into the most catastrophic war the world had ever seen. How did this happen? In recent times Europe had stepped back from the precipice; in 1914 there would be no peace or compromise. As grave events spiralled out of control Europe could not step back from the brink.
1914: Day by Day Cartoons
Twelve cartoonists and graphic artists respond to world events in the lead-up to war one hundred years ago.