The Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his family
Introduction, Index, a Note on Times, and Sources
The July Crisis was the immediate cause of the First World War.
By 1914, a decade of reckless diplomacy and recurrent crises had taken its toll on European international relations, and it was widely feared that a general war was becoming unavoidable. On June 28, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a young Bosnian Serb whose weapons had been supplied by ultra-nationalists with contacts in the Serbian government. Serbia and Austria-Hungary had long been bitterly antagonistic and Austria soon secretly decided to make use of the murder to force a crisis that would lead to the invasion and destruction of Serbia in a localized war. On July 5 the German Kaiser blithely pledged to unconditionally support Austria in this dangerous scheme. Despite some disquieting hints, it was only on July 23 that the crisis broke into the open, when Serbia was suddenly presented with an impossible ultimatum by Austria-Hungary.
From then on, events moved quickly. Russia immediately gave strong support to its ally Serbia, France backed its ally Russia, and though Germany began to grow alarmed, it stubbornly continued to encourage Austria, making a diplomatic solution impossible. After Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, the crisis rapidly spun out of control. As the situation grew more ominous, the exhausted diplomats and political leaders were unable to resist their military chiefs' demands for preparatory measures, which neighboring nations felt compelled to respond to, leading to full-scale mobilizations and then to war. Germany declared war on Russia August 1 and on France two days later. On August 4, Germany invaded Belgium, which drew Britain into the conflict on the same day. Austria came in between August 6 and August 12. By then, all of the European powers except Italy were at war with each other.
A Note on Times
The time in London, Brussels, and Paris was one hour earlier than in Berlin and two hours earlier than in St. Petersburg with the time zones that existed in the summer of 1914.
For example, the following times were equivalent:
The entries in the chronology are in order of real time. For example, an event that occurred in St. Petersburg at 300.PM would be listed before one that took place in London at 200.PM. The exact timing of events is less significant than it might seem. International diplomacy in 1914 was poorly equipped to deal with fast-moving events, and even the most urgent messages often took many hours to be transmitted and acted on, especially as diplomats, typists, and cipher clerks became exhausted in the frantic later stages of the crisis.
Albertini. The Origins of the War of 1914, Updated. 3 vols.
Fromkin. Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? 2004
Strachan. The First World War, Volume 1: To Arms. 2001
Franz Ferdinand and Family courtesy of
Photos of the Great War (World War I Docoument Archive)