The Summer of 1914

The Summer of 1914

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

GCSE History Revision - Assassination of ArchDuke Franz FerdinandBy the summer of 1914 the existence of two rival alliances meant that, if two enemy countries did go to war, the rest of Europe would be committed to follow them.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand set the final chain of events in motion to make this nightmare scenario come true. On 28 June 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot dead in their car by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian assassin who had previously tried to join the Black Hand, only to be rejected by the group for being too small to make a good terrorist.


Effects of the Assassination

The assassination created a domino effect of different countries threatening one another and coming to the support of their alliance partners:

Backed by Germany’s promise of a ‘blank cheque’ of military support, and believing that France and Britain would tell Russia not to intervene, on 23 July Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia: put a stop to all pro-Serbian nationalist and anti-Austro-Hungarian activities.

Serbia would have been too small to stand up to Austria-Hungary and Germany on its own. But Russia came to its support by making preparations to mobilize its army on 25 July, believing that if it and France stood together, Austria-Hungary would back down.

Therefore we have two groups: Germany and Austria-Hungary on one side, France, Russia and Serbia on the other, who both believed that they could make the other side back down through making threats. Tragically, neither side did.

Serbia began to mobilize its troops on 25th July, and Austria-Hungary responded by doing the same. Britain nervously watched these events unfolding, and tried to propose a conference to resolve things peacefully. The plan was rejected by Germany.


War is Declared

GCSE History Revision - Save SerbiaOn 28th July, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. All-out war was now inevitable.

Russia mobilized its army, and Austria-Hungary then declared war on Russia.

Germany prepared to put the Schlieffen Plan into action, making a token effort to avoid war with France by making the impossible demand that it sit out of any war between Germany and Russia.

Britain made assurances to France and Belgium that it would defend them against Germany and, sure enough, declared war on Germany on 4th August when the Germans invaded Belgium.