The beginning of the deadliest period of conflict in human history.
Known as the “shot heard around the world”, the controversy surrounding the Bosnian Serb who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, is as strong today as it was 100 years ago.
Princip’s shot led directly to 16 million deaths in World War I and another 50-85 million deaths in world war II—the deadliest period of conflict in human history. These events may have happened anyway, but it was Gavrilo Princip who sparked it all off.
Some say “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, but at the root of the tragedy lay Imperialism. The Age of Imperialism was a time beginning around 1700 when (mostly) European industrializing nations were busy colonizing, influencing, and annexing other parts of the world in order to gain political power.
In the 19th century, the major European powers had gone to great lengths to maintain a balance of power throughout Europe. By 1900 there was a complex network of political and military alliances across the continent.
After the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, Germany unified into an Empire and its economy and industry flourished. Germany devoted significant economic resources to building up its navy to rival Britain’s Royal Navy, triggering an arms race between Britain and Germany that eventually extended to the rest of Europe. All the major powers devoted their industrial base to producing the equipment and weapons necessary for a pan-European conflict. Between 1908 and 1913, the military spending of the European powers increased by 50%.
In 1914, the “shot heard around the world” was the trigger that unravelled 30 years of global conflict, political upheaval and revolution.