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How an Assassination Escalated into World War

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Essay title: How an Assassination Escalated into World War

HIS 106B: Western Civilization II

Paper 1

February 24, 2006

How an Assassination Escalated into World War

During the early summer of 1914, people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean knew that something momentous was on the horizon. On summer's first official day, June 21, 1914, many European leaders and the people they led were enjoying nice weather and time of leisure (Heyman 3). What those people didn't know was that in one week's time, the world would be forever changed. "There were deep and painful conflicts among the countries of Europe that led to the unprecedented calamity of a war that lasted four and a half years, that killed more than any event since the Black Death of the fourteenth century, and that altered the shape of European life and the geopolitical map" (3). Many individual causes and factors have been attributed to the commencement of the event. However, it was the collective contribution of these factors which led to the historic event known as World War I.

For many years previous to 1914, France, Russia, and Great Britain were intent on rebuilding Europe and their individual regimes, while installing and promoting continental peace. However, Germany stood in opposition, and was an antagonist to achieving peace. When Europe experienced the revolutions during the late 1700s and 1800s, many countries were focused on solitary unification and rebuilding. After their unification in 1871, Germany began building up a colossal and unmatched military machine (Coffin 763). The German navy was a product of this unification (Strachan 11). Germany had become nothing less than a highly-developed military nation, who began threatening the peace of the world.

World War I was a four year conflict that induced the collapse of many ideals and institutions (Coffin 861). It is also referred to as the "Great War," as it was the largest and most costly war that the world had seen at the time. Shortly before World War I began, Europe was experiencing a brash wave of militarism. The common belief was that the nations that did not expand during the previous revolutions in Europe would fade away. Also, they believed that going to war made man nobler, while also reviving decadent and degenerated peoples (910). This brought about an arm's race throughout Europe, but particularly between Great Britain and Germany. Both countries were in fierce competition to assemble the largest, fiercest, and most dominant naval system in the world.

As nations began to assemble their armies, much speculation and distrust arose (Barnes 33). While some nations believed that war was in the near future, others like Russian revolutionary Vladimir I. Lenin dismissed the possibility (Heyman 3). Lenin said, "A war between Austria and Russia would be a very useful thing for the revolution in all of Eastern Europe, but it is not likely that Franz Joseph (emperor of Austria-Hungary) and Nikolashka ("Nicky," the tsar of Russia) will give us that pleasure" (3-4). However, this is when the idea of preventative war became popular. Preventative war suggests that a nation should attack the enemy early, rather than waiting for an enemy to plan an attack them; it is similar to a sneak attack. The downside to this was that it did not allow a sufficient amount of time necessary for a peaceful revolution to be determined (Barnes 37).

June 28, 1914, marked the most influential date of World War I. It was when Austria-Hungary decided enough was enough. As heir to the throne in Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand scheduled an official visit to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and a province of Austria (Langdon 8). This decision was made in opposition to an advisement by Austria-Hungarian officials. The Archduke was advised not to make the trip because it was the 525th anniversary of Serbia's defeat by the Turks at the battle of Kosovo (8). This was already a strongly resented day by the population of Bosnia, and that resentment was compounded as most of the population hated Austria-Hungarian rule. On that day, alongside his radical cohorts, Gavrilo Princip, a 19 year old Bosnian student, organized and carried out the assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie (Coffin 863, Heyman 3). Princip and fellow Bosnians viewed the murders as a "struggle for independence." On the other side, Austria viewed it as a "direct attack by the Serbian government" (863). One month later, Austria declared war, and the face of globe would never be the same.

The nationalism that existed during these times was extremely widespread. People made a choice and lived their lives by that choice. The textbook definition of nationalism is

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