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The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is commonly recognised as the spark to ignite WW1 or ‘The Great War’

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The details behind the Sarajevo incident, the other reasons that built up to cause WW1, I will then go into depth about how and why these small disputes suddenly started a world war! June 28th, 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chotek Von Chotkova were visiting Bosnia Herzegovina on the ‘holy’ day of St Vitus to inspect the watch General Potiorek’s troops on manoeuvers. The Archduke knew this trip would be dangerous as his uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, had been the subject of an assassination attempt by the Black Hand in 1911

Amongst the crowd stood several men six of which armed with explosives and/or deadly weapons. Danilo Ilic, the main organizer of the plot was the only man out of the seven involved that was not armed, however for organizing the assassination he was tortured, then executed himself, he died age 24. Nedjelko Cabrinovic was 19 and the only one out of the five with a grenade to actually use it, he could not get a good view of the Archduke’s car, He threw the grenade, hitting the back, it exploded behind the Archdukes car and in front of the car behind injuring many people in the process.

The abnormal part about this was, even after the Archduke had seen the grenade destroy the car behind he carried on with the parade, promising to visit the people injured by the explosion after he had watched the troops. The goodwill of the Archduke led to his unfortunate and untimely demise. Gavrilo Princip, the eventual killer of the Archduke was further down the crowd than Cabrinovic so when he heard the grenade explode, he took it the Archduke was dead. He walked down the road, taking a shortcut past the hospital when he saw Ferdinand who had been visiting the injured.

He fired two shots, shooting Sophie in her abdomen and Ferdinand in his jugular vein. Princip was tortured and then thrown in prison, he died of tuberculosis in 1918 aged 23 (he was too young for the death sentence). The Archduke, to the General, showed no signs of being shot until he coughed blood onto Count Harrach’s cheek, The Duchess cried out “what happened to you? ” She then sank from her seat, the General thought she had just fainted until Ferdinand, still dying himself pleaded “Sopher, Sopher, sterbe nicht, bleibe am leben fur unsere kinder! ” which translated means “Sophie Dearest, don’t die, stay alive for our children! to which his voice became a slow rattle, he finally died after repeating those words six or seven times.

The unfortunate and saddening fact of this incident, the Archduke was not the intended target, General Potiorek was the assassins original “dead man walking” it was only when they found the Archduke was there too did they turn their attention. The Archduke was a very powerful man who was not afraid to speak his mind in the sense of politics, this is probably one of the main reasons he was a perfect second choice opposed to the General. None of the plotters were over 27 which means they were too young to remember the Ottoman Regime.

Their anger over conditions in Bosnia seems directed simply at the visible characters of authority. The assassins were not advanced political thinkers; most of them were still high school students. Statements at their trials suggest the killing to have been a symbolic act of protest which, obviously they did not expect to cause a war between Serbia and Austria which helped towards a world war. If the assassins had gone ahead and killed the General instead, might there have not been a war? There were many other small disputes going on in the world that eventually built up to WW1.

But before then there were other, long term causes to the ‘Great War’ such as the rise of Germany and the Arms Race. Until the middle of the nineteenth century Germany was divided into separate states. The most important of which was Prussia. In 1860 the leaders of Prussia wanted to unite Germany. France was unhappy about this; the French were long time enemies of the Germans dating back to the French Revolutionary wars from 1792. France went to war with Prussia only to fall at their feet; the victorious Prussian government was able to set up a new German empire.

Wilhelm 1, King of Prussia, was declared Kaiser of Germany and his chief minister, Bismarck, became the powerful Chancellor of Germany. Chancellor Bismarck was very intelligent and skilful. After 1871 he stopped the German Government from getting involved with other countries conflicts, while retaining the peace in Germany, Bismarck made sure that the French remained isolated so as long as he remained Chancellor, there was no threat of going to war with Britain or Russia. However this changed in 1888 when Kaiser Wilhelm 11 came into power, the Kaiser had a typical German attitude that Germany should have a worldwide empire like Britain.

He made Bismarck retire in 1890 and began creating a more aggressive Germany, he started his campaign by ending the friendly relationship Germany had with Russia. As a result of his obnoxious attitude, other countries began to see Germany as a threat. After 1897 the German government started building an enormous navy that could challenge the British force. Germany knew that a worldwide empire would have to be defended by a worldwide navy. In my opinion Germany were out of their league, trying to match the might of the British Empire so soon after their “growth spurt”, they grew too quickly and I believe that this was their downfall.

In 1900, the German government passed a law, ordering the building of a huge new fleet of 41 battleships and 60 cruisers. The British responded energetically to this threat by increasing the size of their navy, in 1906, the Dreadnought was introduced, the Germans responded by attempting to imitate the Dreadnoughts design, to stay ahead of the German navy, the British went on to build Super Dreadnoughts, by this time, Germany were most definitely defeated by British technology and turned to their armies to make up the loss.

Although Britain and Germany were silently battling for “King of the Seas” there were other countries trying to compete too, such as Russia and France. By 1914 the French had increased their forces to nearly 4 million soldiers. The Russians had also spent millions on military railways which were designed to transport troops to fight Germany and Austria, Russia was relying on the fact that their army was huge and spent too much on transporting their troops, rather than creating new weapons for them to command.

The Archduke’s assassination was the last straw for Austria – Hungary, calling upon a 35 year old alliance with an up and coming superpower – Germany, Serbia also had a very strong pact with Russia, Germany were planning an attack on France which was called the “Schlieffen Plan” They knew that if Russia were brought into the war, Germany would not be able to complete their mission, in a space of three days, Germany had declared war on France, Russia and the “Schlieffen Plan” had failed.

Russia had a treaty with France dating back from 1892 as a result of Wilhelm’s clumsy policies. At the turn of the century, Britain were also looking for allies in case of a war, originally, they looked to Germany, Germany were so disorganised that Britain looked elsewhere, siding with France and Russia. Britain were unsure about joining the war as they had a worldwide economy to think about, they eventually were herded in when Germany decided to attack France through Belgium, with whom Britain had a defence treaty.

Historians have named this the “domino effect” This was why the Schlieffen Plan didn’t work. In 1919, after the war, the five losing countries each had a treaty they had to sign. Germany and the “Treaty of Versailles” Bulgaria and the “Treaty of Neuilly” Turkey had to sign the “Treaty of Sevres” and Austria and Hungary signed separate treaties, the “Treaty of Saint Germain” and the “Treaty of Trianon” this indicated that they were going to be divided into two states.

Although each losing country had a treaty to sign, Germany were made to pay huge reparations for starting the war, Although Germany didn’t start the war, they played a very big part aggravating the other countries. The German government were constantly controlling Austria – Hungary behind the scenes, telling them what to do and say to countries that were hoping for peace, such as Britain. Secretly, the German government wanted a war to aid in creating a worldwide empire like Britain’s, however Britain didn’t like the idea of competition, this was a critical reason for the British joining the war – effort.

The breakout of Spanish Flu, killing 25 million Europeans coincided with the signing of the treaties, unfortunately for the Germans, the devastation and … caused was directed at the Germans, they tended to be a scapegoat to blame for everyone’s problems in Europe. Originally, The Fourteen Point Plan, solely designed by Woodrow Wilson was relatively innocent, in the sense that no country gained too much and Germany didn’t lose their dignity.

France were given back Alsace-Lorraine, Wilson thought that this would appease the French, Georges Clemenceau had something else in mind. He wanted to crush Germany economically. France wanted to get their own back on Germany and steal some land. Like the French public, Clemenceau wanted to get their own back on Germany for invading Alsace-Lorraine, He was nicknamed “le tigre” because he was the most radical of the big four, wanting to destroy Germany so they could never invade France again.

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