Was the Outbreak of General War in 1914 Inevitable After the Assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand?

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Was the outbreak of general war in 1914 inevitable after the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand?

Various different factors led to the outbreak of the first World War- a war which incorporated all human, economic and military resources available to achieve total victory over the enemy. Roughly, the causes can be classified into long term (Franco-Prussian War, Imperialism, Alliance System, Anglo- German Naval Arms Race, etc.), short term (Morrocan Crisis, Agadir Crisis, Bosnian Crisis, Balkan Wars) and the immediate cause of World War I: The assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Although all of the causes added to the outbreak of World War I, the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand made the war inevitable for the European Powers. It took the last chance of a peaceful solution to the European conflict and can be classified as the most important immediate cause of the war.

The assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand is seen as the most important immediate cause of World War I. On the 28th of June, Franz Ferdinand was shot by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Slavic nationalist group “Black Hand Movement”, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Arch Duke had been on a good-will mission to Bosnia in order to calm the situation and bring peace to the region. Directly after the assassination, the Serbian Government was blamed by Austria-Hungary as being responsible for Franz Ferdinand’s death. This assumption may have been made because there were some few connections between members of the Serbian government and the “Black Hand Movement”. On the same day, Serbia denied any responsibility for the assassination. After this, the Austrian-Hungarian government assured itself of German Support on the 5th of July 1914 through the diplomat count Hoyos by sending a letter to Berlin which stated that it was almost sure that the Serbian Government was involved in the assassination. It also implied Austria-Hungary’s will to crush Serbia militarily in order to prevent a strong bulwark of Slavic nations under the leadership of Serbia. To the letter, Kaiser Wilhelm II answered that Austria-Hungary could “rest assured that his Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship”. After the German reassurance, Austria-Hungary proceeded by setting an ultimatum to Serbia on the 23rd of July with the following terms: 1. Officially condemn anti-Austrian publications and propaganda 2. Suppress anti-Austrian societies

3. Ban anti-Austrian teachers and books from their schools 4. Dismiss any government officials that Austria might name 5. Accept help from Austria in checking obnoxious propaganda 6. Allow Austrian officials to assist in the investigation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Serbia accepted all terms except the one that allowed Austrian officials to further investigate the murder of Franz Ferdinand on the 25th of July. This marks the final trigger for the outbreak of World War I; on the 28th of July 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and a fatal chain reaction began.

One reason for the outbreak of World War I being inevitable after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was that this assassination was the long awaited chance for Austria-Hungary and the other European Powers to begin a war. For Austria-Hungary, war was favorable because it aimed to gain power in the Balkan region. This was only possible if Serbia was in a weak position without the chance to interfere with Austrian-Hungarian interests. Furthermore, Austria-Hungary feared that a strong Serbian state would lead to a unified Slavic empire under the leadership of Serbia. Therefore, a military intervention to crush Serbia was in the interest of Austria-Hungary. For Germany, war was favorable because of the Weltpolitik principle, according to which Germany wanted to seize a more important role in the World by territorial expansion and military power. Also,...
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