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.


(1) The Background, to Jun.1914

(2) The Preliminary Stage, Jun.28-Jul.22, 1914

(3) The Crisis Breaks, Jul.23-Jul.27, 1914

(4) The Height of the Crisis, Jul.28-Jul.31, 1914

(5) The Outbreak of General War, Aug.01-04, 1914 and the Aftermath



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:
1:00 PM in London, Paris, and Brussels
2:00 PM in Berlin 
3:00 PM in St. Petersburg

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.


Sources include:

Luigi Albertini. The Origins of the War of 1914, Updated. 3 vols. 1942-1943/1952/2005
Sidney Bradshaw Fay.  The Origins of the World War, Second Edition.  2 vols.  1928-1930/1966

David Fromkin. Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?  2004
Imaneul Geiss (ed).  July 1914: The Outbreak of the First World War.  1965/1967
Edward Gleichen (ed).  Chronology of the Great War.  1918-20/1988
Randal Gray.  Chronicle of the First World War, 2 vols.  1990
David G. Herrmann.  The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War.  1996 
William Jannen, Jr.  The Lions of July: Prelude to War, 1914.  1996 
John Keegan.  August 1914: Opening Moves.  1971 
Gerard E. Silberstein.  The Troubled Alliance: German-Austrian Relations, 1914-1917.   1970

Hew Strachan. The First World War, Volume 1: To Arms.  2001
Barbara Tuchman.  The Guns of August.  1962

Photo of Franz Ferdinand and Family courtesy of
Photos of the Great War  (World War I Docoument Archive)