WWI Centenary

In case you missed it, two days ago was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. There was a low key ceremony in Sarajevo, and there are events planned all summer to commemorate the various actions that led to the outbreak of the war. I understand the Battle of Mons is going to have a particularly large remembrance.

Were you ever confused about the sequence of events that led from a small, localized dispute in the Balkans to a European-wide war? Unlike the relatively simple explanation of WWII (ie, Third Reich invades Poland) WWI can't be explained in a in a quick two or three sentence summary. So, I enjoyed this video from the BBC that nicely summarizes how all the Great Powers got sucked into a tiff between Austria-Hungary and Serbia... in the form of a rap battle between Princip, Franz Joseph I, Nicholas II, Wilhelm II, George V and France's Gen. Joffre (who just sits in the background). My favorite lyric? From George V: "You're taking an enormous punt/ No wonder my homies, and your's too/ Think you're a massive... difficult chap".

Posted by Dave
Ventura, CA, USA
1455 posts

"Now just like your bald head you ain't got no heir"
Well, that's probably what started the whole thing right there. My Dad would have told him grass don't grow on a busy highway, but no such luck here, I guess.
It's nice to finally have a comprehensive understanding of the history.

On another note, here's a fascinating look at the Bomb Collector of Ypres, Belgium:

Posted by Janet
Lakewood, WA
103 posts

Thank you for posting the video. Funny and educational.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9302 posts

Tom, thanks for the post.
It's sobering that 17 million people died as a result of the events set in motion at Sarajevo one hundred years ago.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5065 posts

Of recent literature on the origins of the war, ie, the last 20 years or so, I would recommend those works by Hew Strachan, N. Fergusen "The Pity of War, " Max Hastings, and Christopher Clark, "The Sleepwalkers" if you want something analytical, balanced, incisive, scholarly, and professional. Yes, "the sequence of events" in 1914 is of utmost importance to grasping an understanding for the coming of the war.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24175 posts


That video was well done and certainly explained the basics of the reasons for WW-I. I haven't done as much research on WW-I as I have WW-II, but that's something I should probably do as both my grandfathers fought in the war.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4630 posts

There really have been some great articles as well as videos on WWI. The New York Times seemed overrun with them this past weekend. Here's one that looks how it changed war. This one looks in detail at the assassination. Here's another on Belgium today.

And then there is the literature about WWI. I read Birdsong a few years ago and All's Quiet on the Western Front in high school.

So much of the history that I learned in school was slogan and bullet points. We just barely made it to WWI. I'm really glad to see all these articles and videos as I think we have a lot to learn and think about with this war.


Posted by Kathleen
Reston, VA, USA
553 posts

We've been watching the Strachan book turned into a 4-disc set "The First World War" - very interesting! Although the narrator is a bit of a monotone, so when I sit down after dinner with my glass of wine and the evening's episode, I admit to nodding off at times... but will just watch it again. Lots of original footage as well as some footage from modern times.

Thanks for the rap, Tom - now if those guys were narrating the Strachan show, I would definitely stay awake!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5065 posts

I agree that the Strachan 4 CD set on the war is most likely the best I have seen in its professionalism, balance, focusing on the global aspects of the war not merely the partiality of the Western Front, i.e., its scholarly approach Strachan; it's much better then the PBS presentation on the Great War with its obviously Allied focus.