100th Anniversary of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

“The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Ferdinand & Sophie moments before they were assassinated

Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary for Great Britain, was very nearly right when he made this apocalyptic comment in 1914.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie were on their way to the Austrian governor’s residence in Sarajevo, Bosnia, when a grenade was thrown at the Archduke’s car. The bomb exploded under a trailing automobile, killing two army officers. 45 minutes later, Ferdinand and Sophie left to visit an officer injured by the bomb. On their way to the hospital, their car took a wrong turn. Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand Society, stepped out of a crowd and shot Sophie in the stomach, killing her almost instantly. He then shot Ferdinand in the neck. The Archduke died 10 minutes later.

The assassination sparked the First World War

Bosnia had been part of AustriaHungary since 1908, but it was claimed by neighboring Serbia. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination, and declared war on July 28. This Balkan war quickly escalated into a European war: Russia supported Serbia; Germany supported Austria-Hungary; France supported Russia; Germany invaded Belgium, causing Great Britain to enter the war in support of Belgium. The “Great War” had begun.

Gavrilo Princip of The Black Hand pulled the trigger

What was to be the “War to End All Wars” ended up leading to the Second World War. The harsh terms dictated to Germany in the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s.

eLibrary has a wealth of resources about the causes of World War I and its aftermath. You can search eLibrary’s Research Topics for information relating to World War One, as well as other resources, such as World War I: A History in Documents and articles relating to the Great War in Military History magazine. The 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the beginning of World War One would be a great time to introduce students to this transformative period in world history.


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