Malcolm & Dan Joe (WW1)

"Dan-Joe & Malcolm (WW1)" -- TOC

Ch. 2 - "The Death Of A Duke"

In 1914, Serbia (Map) was "an aggressive, backward and domestically violent Christian kingdom which had won its independence from the rule of the Muslim Ottoman empire after centuries of rebellion."7 It is not that all Serbs hated those of Austria-Hungary, "a polity of five major religions and a dozen languages," each group living in fear that some particular group should take charge. One of these groups consisted of Serbs who historically ended up being part of Austrian-Hungarian nation; these Serbs wanted to add their territory to Serbia: a position which was not supported by their Austrian-Hungarian master. A group of five young Serbs and a Bosnian slipped over the border and assassinated8 Frantz Ferdinand, a nephew to the Emperor of Austria-Hungary and heir to the Habsburg throne. This, the history books have it, was the immediate cause of World War One. The investigation that followed the event, was immediate and the resultant report implicated head administrative officials in Serbia. The honour of a country was now at stake and international notes were passed, allies consulted, and time limits declared.

There was, as John Keegan pointed out, a brief time when the western nations of the world thought that this "local disagreement" would blow over.

"[The heads of state in Russia, in Germany, in France, in Austria and in Great Britain] did not equally share the information available, nor understand what they did share in the same way, nor agree within each capital about what was understood. Information arrived fitfully, sometimes much, sometimes little, but was always incomplete. There was no way of correlating and displaying it, as there is in modern crises centres. Even had there been, it is not certain that the crises of 1914 would have been managed any better than it was. Modern communication systems may overload those who seek to be informed through them, so consuming time necessary for thought; under load, in 1914, consumed time as men puzzled to fill in the gaps between the facts they had. Time, in all crises, is usually the ingredient missing to make a solution. It is best supplied by an agreement on a pause."9
On July 28th, 1914, Tuesday, Austria-Hungary, but a month after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered, declared war on Serbia, though fourteen months were to pass before they were to do anything about it. Russia, the historical ally of the Serbs, dithered: first mobilizing, then not; then again, but only a partial one; then back to full mobilization. All of this made Germany nervous.

NEXT [Chapter 03, "The Rape Of Belgium"]


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Peter Landry