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The Domino Effect – How Europe fell into World War I.


On June 28, 1914 , the archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand , and his wife were on an official visit to the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Serb-dominated province of Austria-Hungary . During the visit, Serbian militants, seeking independence for the territory, made two separate attempts on the archduke’s life. In the first attempt, they threw a bomb at his car shortly after he arrived in town, but the bomb bounced off the car and failed to kill or injure the intended victim.

Later that day, while the archduke was en route to a hospital to visit an officer wounded by the bomb, his driver turned down a side street where Gavrilo Princip , a nineteen-year-old militant Bosnian Serb who had been part of the assassination attempt that morning, happened to be standing. Seizing the opportunity, Princip stepped up to the car’s window and shot both the archduke and his wife at point-blank range.

The archduke’s assassination had an incendiary effect throughout Central Europe. Tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia , which had already been rising for several years over territorial disputes, escalated further. Despite limited evidence, Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the assassination. Furthermore, it blamed Serbia for seeding unrest among ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of Austria-Hungary that shared a border with Serbia.

There is no objective way to determine which of these factors was the most important in bringing about the start of World War I.  All of the factors had an impact and it is not possible to accurately measure each of these impacts.  I would argue that the most important overall factor was the desire for empire and power.  This desire caused alliances to form.  Once the alliances were formed and the various countries were...

There is no objective way to determine which of these factors was the most important in bringing about the start of World War I.  All of the factors had an impact and it is not possible to accurately measure each of these impacts.  I would argue that the most important overall factor was the desire for empire and power.  This desire caused alliances to form.  Once the alliances were formed and the various countries were completely suspicious of one another, the assassination could ignite the powder keg and cause the war to begin.

As the distrust between the countries grew, they formed alliances with one another.  They felt the need for alliances so that they could have friends who would help to protect them from threatening opponents.  For example, France and England (who had been rivals) formed an alliance because both of them felt that Germany was a threat to their power.  Thus, the alliances came about because of the desire for power and empire.

At 6:00pm on 23 July, the Austro-Hungarian Minister in Belgrade, Wladimir Giesl, delivered a 48–hour ultimatum to the Serbian Foreign Ministry. In addition to declaring that the Serbian Government was guilty of tolerating the existence of a subversive movement in Serbia the ultimatum demanded that Belgrade would have to accept the annexation of Bosnia. It was asked to issue an official apology in the Serbian press. 

In addition, some ten separate demands forced the Serbian Government, for example, to suppress all publications which might incite hatred and contempt of the Monarchy; to dissolve the organization Narodna Odbrana ; to eliminate anti-Habsburg teaching materials; to assist Austrian organs to suppress subversive movements in Serbia; to conduct a judicial enquiry against all participants in the 28 June plot; to arrest two Serbian government officials, ‘who have both been compromised by the results of the enquiry’; and to dismiss and punish the border guards who assisted in the smuggling of weapons into Bosnia.

By Bassano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license Sir Edward Grey in 1914 Baron Giesl had been instructed: ‘However the Serbs react to the ultimatum, you must break off relations and it must come to war.’ At 6 o’clock on the evening of the 25th, Giesl and the rest of the Austrian delegation hastily left Belgrade.

On June 28, 1914 , the archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand , and his wife were on an official visit to the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Serb-dominated province of Austria-Hungary . During the visit, Serbian militants, seeking independence for the territory, made two separate attempts on the archduke’s life. In the first attempt, they threw a bomb at his car shortly after he arrived in town, but the bomb bounced off the car and failed to kill or injure the intended victim.

Later that day, while the archduke was en route to a hospital to visit an officer wounded by the bomb, his driver turned down a side street where Gavrilo Princip , a nineteen-year-old militant Bosnian Serb who had been part of the assassination attempt that morning, happened to be standing. Seizing the opportunity, Princip stepped up to the car’s window and shot both the archduke and his wife at point-blank range.

The archduke’s assassination had an incendiary effect throughout Central Europe. Tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia , which had already been rising for several years over territorial disputes, escalated further. Despite limited evidence, Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the assassination. Furthermore, it blamed Serbia for seeding unrest among ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of Austria-Hungary that shared a border with Serbia.

There is no objective way to determine which of these factors was the most important in bringing about the start of World War I.  All of the factors had an impact and it is not possible to accurately measure each of these impacts.  I would argue that the most important overall factor was the desire for empire and power.  This desire caused alliances to form.  Once the alliances were formed and the various countries were...

There is no objective way to determine which of these factors was the most important in bringing about the start of World War I.  All of the factors had an impact and it is not possible to accurately measure each of these impacts.  I would argue that the most important overall factor was the desire for empire and power.  This desire caused alliances to form.  Once the alliances were formed and the various countries were completely suspicious of one another, the assassination could ignite the powder keg and cause the war to begin.

As the distrust between the countries grew, they formed alliances with one another.  They felt the need for alliances so that they could have friends who would help to protect them from threatening opponents.  For example, France and England (who had been rivals) formed an alliance because both of them felt that Germany was a threat to their power.  Thus, the alliances came about because of the desire for power and empire.

At 6:00pm on 23 July, the Austro-Hungarian Minister in Belgrade, Wladimir Giesl, delivered a 48–hour ultimatum to the Serbian Foreign Ministry. In addition to declaring that the Serbian Government was guilty of tolerating the existence of a subversive movement in Serbia the ultimatum demanded that Belgrade would have to accept the annexation of Bosnia. It was asked to issue an official apology in the Serbian press. 

In addition, some ten separate demands forced the Serbian Government, for example, to suppress all publications which might incite hatred and contempt of the Monarchy; to dissolve the organization Narodna Odbrana ; to eliminate anti-Habsburg teaching materials; to assist Austrian organs to suppress subversive movements in Serbia; to conduct a judicial enquiry against all participants in the 28 June plot; to arrest two Serbian government officials, ‘who have both been compromised by the results of the enquiry’; and to dismiss and punish the border guards who assisted in the smuggling of weapons into Bosnia.

By Bassano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license Sir Edward Grey in 1914 Baron Giesl had been instructed: ‘However the Serbs react to the ultimatum, you must break off relations and it must come to war.’ At 6 o’clock on the evening of the 25th, Giesl and the rest of the Austrian delegation hastily left Belgrade.

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On June 28, 1914 , the archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand , and his wife were on an official visit to the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Serb-dominated province of Austria-Hungary . During the visit, Serbian militants, seeking independence for the territory, made two separate attempts on the archduke’s life. In the first attempt, they threw a bomb at his car shortly after he arrived in town, but the bomb bounced off the car and failed to kill or injure the intended victim.

Later that day, while the archduke was en route to a hospital to visit an officer wounded by the bomb, his driver turned down a side street where Gavrilo Princip , a nineteen-year-old militant Bosnian Serb who had been part of the assassination attempt that morning, happened to be standing. Seizing the opportunity, Princip stepped up to the car’s window and shot both the archduke and his wife at point-blank range.

The archduke’s assassination had an incendiary effect throughout Central Europe. Tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia , which had already been rising for several years over territorial disputes, escalated further. Despite limited evidence, Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the assassination. Furthermore, it blamed Serbia for seeding unrest among ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of Austria-Hungary that shared a border with Serbia.

On June 28, 1914 , the archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand , and his wife were on an official visit to the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Serb-dominated province of Austria-Hungary . During the visit, Serbian militants, seeking independence for the territory, made two separate attempts on the archduke’s life. In the first attempt, they threw a bomb at his car shortly after he arrived in town, but the bomb bounced off the car and failed to kill or injure the intended victim.

Later that day, while the archduke was en route to a hospital to visit an officer wounded by the bomb, his driver turned down a side street where Gavrilo Princip , a nineteen-year-old militant Bosnian Serb who had been part of the assassination attempt that morning, happened to be standing. Seizing the opportunity, Princip stepped up to the car’s window and shot both the archduke and his wife at point-blank range.

The archduke’s assassination had an incendiary effect throughout Central Europe. Tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia , which had already been rising for several years over territorial disputes, escalated further. Despite limited evidence, Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the assassination. Furthermore, it blamed Serbia for seeding unrest among ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of Austria-Hungary that shared a border with Serbia.

There is no objective way to determine which of these factors was the most important in bringing about the start of World War I.  All of the factors had an impact and it is not possible to accurately measure each of these impacts.  I would argue that the most important overall factor was the desire for empire and power.  This desire caused alliances to form.  Once the alliances were formed and the various countries were...

There is no objective way to determine which of these factors was the most important in bringing about the start of World War I.  All of the factors had an impact and it is not possible to accurately measure each of these impacts.  I would argue that the most important overall factor was the desire for empire and power.  This desire caused alliances to form.  Once the alliances were formed and the various countries were completely suspicious of one another, the assassination could ignite the powder keg and cause the war to begin.

As the distrust between the countries grew, they formed alliances with one another.  They felt the need for alliances so that they could have friends who would help to protect them from threatening opponents.  For example, France and England (who had been rivals) formed an alliance because both of them felt that Germany was a threat to their power.  Thus, the alliances came about because of the desire for power and empire.


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