June 28, 1914 – Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On this day in history, France Ferdinand, Archduke of Austro-Hungary and heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, were shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Although some facile accounts of the origins of World War I ascribe the cause of the war to this one event, the reality was much more complex. As Max Hastings argues in his book Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, Austria only used the assassination as a pretext to invade Serbia. Likewise, historian Margaret McMillan, in The War That Ended Peace, avers that Europe was a powder keg, with players just waiting for an excuse to light the fuse.  The Balkans, being the most volatile area at the time, was merely the most likely source of the much-anticipated spark. 

The fact is that the Archduke was the one man in the Austrian government committed to avert a European war. Nevertheless, to paraphrase Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, the war came.

Franz Ferdinand & Sophie arrive in Sarajevo, 6/28/1914

Franz Ferdinand & Sophie arrive in Sarajevo, 6/28/1914

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