Saturday, June 28, is the anniversary of two days that might be said to mark the beginning and end of the First World War. It's the centennial of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife - heirs to the Austrian throne - by Serbian radical Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, the proximate cause of the beginning of the war. If you're interested in further information on the subject there are hundreds of books and films - the best books I know of (and I'm no expert) are Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August (this won a Pulitzer back when they meant something) and John Keegan's The First World War.
On the same date in 1919, five years later, the peace treaty that ended the war was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. In the interim, ten million died, twice that number were wounded, and Europe's late-19th-century faith in the inevitability of progress and human betterment was destroyed. On hearing the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany's much-maligned Kaiser Wilhelm II noted from exile that,
"The war to end war has resulted in a peace to end peace,"
and France's Marshall Ferdinand Foch observed,
"This is not peace; it is an armistice for twenty years."
They were right.
God grant we may not have a European war thrust upon us, and for such a stupid reason too, no I don't mean stupid, but to have to go to war on account of tiresome Servia beggars belief.
~Mary, Queen-Consort of England's George V (letter to her aunt, Princess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 28 July 1914)
The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
~Sir Edward Grey (remark, 3 August 1914, on the eve of Britain's declaration of war)
The War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened
afterwards consisted of battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of Fate.
~Sir Winston Churchill (Preface to Spears, Liaison 1914)
When every autumn people said it could not last through the winter, and when every spring there was still no end in sight, only the hope that out of it all some good would accrue to mankind kept men and nations fighting. When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominant one transcending all others: disillusion.
This animated map reflects the daily changes over the course of the war.
Here's the The BBC’s Horrible Histories explanation of how the Brits got involved:
The Atlantic has a series of photoessays entitled World War I in Photos on various WWI topics.
An 8 minute video on The Treaty of Versailles and its consequences:
Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie at Sarajevo - The German caption says, "Leaving the town hall, 5 minutes before the assassination":
In modern day Serbia: annual testicle cooking championships.
Previous posts: Wilfred Owen, the best of the WWI "War Poets", was born 121 years ago today