Sunday 28 June 1914 was a
bright sunny day in Sarajevo.
People were preparing for a royal
visit from Archduke Franz
Ferdinand of Austria. Crowds
lined the streets and waited for
the procession of cars to appear.
Hidden among the crowds were,
however, six teenage terrorists
sworn to kill the Archduke for
they hated both Austria and the
very Archduke […]
[…] but then as the cars passed the Cumurja Bridge,
Cabrinovic threw his bomb, swallowed his poison
and jumped into the river. The Archduke saw the
bomb coming and threw it off his car, but it exploded
under the car behind, injuring several people […] The
police dragged Cabrinovic out of the river: his
cyanide was old had not worked […]
[…]The Archduke was driven to the Town Hall, where he
demanded to be taken to visit the bomb victims in
hospitals. Fearing more terrorists, the officials decided
to take a new route to avoid the crowds […] Princip, one
the unharmed terrorists, saw the car, pulled an
automatic pistol and fired two shots at a range of just 3
or 4 metres. One bullet pierced the Archduke’s neck and
the other ricocheted off the car into his wife’s stomach.
• Austria blamed Serbia for the death of Franz Ferdinand and sent it
• Austria declared war on Serbia and shelled its capital, Belgrade.
• The Russian Army got ready to help Serbia defend itself against the
Austrian attack. Germany warned Russia not to help the Serbs.
• Germany declared war on Russia. It also began to move its army
towards France and Belgium.
• The French army was put on a war footing ready to fight any
• Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. Britain
ordered Germany to withdraw from Belgium.
• With the Germans still in Belgium, Britain declared war on
• Austria declared war on Russia.
In 1914 the six most powerful countries in Europe were divided into opposing ALLIANCES: The
Central Powers or Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), formed in 1882 and
the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia), formed in 1907.
• Before 1870 Germany was a collection of small independent states of which Prussia was the
most powerful. In 1870 the Prussian statesman Bismarck won a war against France, after which
he united the many German states into a new powerful German empire. The new Germany
was especially successful in industry. By 1914 German industry had overtaken Britain’s and was
second in the world only to that of the USA.
• Austria-Hungary was a sprawling empire in central Europe. It was made up of people of
different ethnic groups: Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs and many others. Each group had its
own customs and language. Many of these groups wanted independence from AustriaHungary. In the north the Czech people wanted to rule themselves, the Slav people in the
south-west (esp. the Croats) wanted their own state and the Serbs living the south wanted to
be joined to the neighboring state of Serbia. By 1914 the main concern of the Emperor of
Austria-Hungary was how to keep this fragmented empire together.
• Like Germany, Italy was formed from a collection of smaller states. At first, its main concern
was to get its government established, buy by 1914 the country was settled and was looking to
‘flex its muscles’. Like some other European powers, Italy wanted to set up colonies and build
up an overseas empire. With this aim in mind, Italy joined Germany and Austria in the Triple
• In the 19th century Britain had tried not to get involved in European politics. Its attitude became
known as ‘splendid isolation’ as it concentrated on its huge overseas empire. For most of the 19th
century, Britain had regarded France and Russia as its tow most dangerous rivals. However, by the
early 1900s the picture had began to change.
• France and Britain had reached a number of agreements about the colonies in North Africa. Russia was
defeated in a war against Japan in 1904 and this had weakened Russia so Britain was less concerned
about it. But above all, Britain was worried about Germany for the German Kaiser had made it clear
that he wanted Germany to have an empire and a strong navy, which was a serious threat to the
• France had been defeated by Germany in a short war in 1870. Since then, Germany had built up a
powerful army and strong industries. France was worried about the growing power of Germany, so the
French had also built up their industries and armies and developed a strong a close friendship with
• Russia was by far the largest of all the six powers, but was also the most backward. The country was
almost entirely agricultural, although loans from France had helped Russia to develop some industries.
• Russia shared France’s worries about the growing power of Germany. It had also a long history of
rivalry with Austria-Hungary. This was one reason why Russia was so friendly with Serbia.
The Balance of Power
Politicians at the time called this system of alliances the Balance of Power. They believed that
the size of power of the two alliances would prevent either side from starting a war.
• Anglo-German naval rivalry: One of the most significant causes of
tension in Europe was the naval rivalry which developed after 1900. Ever
since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Britain had ruled the seas without
any challenge. This changed after the new Kaiser announced his
intention to build a powerful German navy.
• Britain felt threatened by this. Germany’s navy was much smaller than
Britain’s but the British navy was spread all over the world, protecting
the British empire. Germany didn’t have much of an empire. Why did it
need a navy? Apparently the Kaiser and his admirals felt that Germany
needed a navy to protect its growing trade.
• Britain was not convinced by what the Germans said. In fact, in 1906
Britain raised the stakes in the naval race by launching HMS
Dreadnought, the first of a new class of warships. Germans responded by
building its own ‘Dreadnoughts’.
THE BALKANS were a very unstable area because
Different nationalities were mixed together.
The area had been ruled by Turkey for many centuries, but Turkish were
now in decline.
The new governments which had been set up in place of Turkish rule were
regularly in dispute with each other.
The great powers, Russia and Austria bordered the countries in this region.
Both wanted to control the area because it gave them access to the
Soldiers on the Western front
went trough an enormous range
of experiences, from extreme
boredom to the appalling stress
of an enemy bombardment or
attack. Oddly enough, attacks
were the exception rather than
the rule. Soldiers spent much
more time on guard, repairing
trenches, or just trying to rest or
Soldiers spent three days at the
front line then three days in
support trenches, followed by
three more days in the front line
then three days off behind the
lines. However in a major
assault soldiers could be in the
front line for much longer. When
the enemy was not around
many soldiers even took up
correspondence to pass the
Millions of men and thousands of
horses lived together. Sanitation
arrangements were makeshift. In the
summer the smell of the trenches
was appalling owing to a combination
of rotting corpses, sewage and
unwashed soldiers. The soldiers were
also infested with lice or ‘chats’. In
summer, the trenches were hot,
dusty and smelly. In wet weather
many suffered from ‘trench foot’. In
winter the trenches offered little
protection and many soldiers got
frostbite. The trenches were also
infested with rats: some accounts
speak of cats and dogs killed by rats
in overwhelming numbers.