Monday, 30 June 2014

Countdown to War. Day 3, 30 June: no major repercussions of Sarajevo assassination

One hundred years ago today, on Tuesday 30 June 1914, when Martin, our twenty-year old railwayman, turned to the Manchester Guardian, he found it reflecting on the possible consequences of the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne the previous Sunday.

Fortunately, the repercussions were likely to be minimal, at least in the short to medium term.

It is not to be supposed that the death of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand will have any immediate or salient effect on the politics of Europe, but it may profoundly modify the course which these would have taken had he lived to ascend the throne.

The late Archduke had been open to Slav aspirations, despite the failure of his dream to create a Slavic grouping within Austria-Hungary, similar to Hungary, in the face of “the military successes of the Balkan Allies, who had formed their alliance under the tutelage of Russia...” Now sadly there had been a reinforcement of the “natural hostility between Austria and Servia...”

And, apparently, “that hostility must, of course, be increased by the assassination. There will certainly be a press campaign in Vienna and Budapest against Servia and the Slav races generally.”

However, none of this was likely to lead to anything too serious unless Franz Joseph, no spring chicken, were to die too soon for:

...the excitement to die down and the peoples of Austria and the countries round it to become accustomed to the notion of the undisturbed succession of the new heir.

If he did die before things had settled, there might be dissension within the Empire with various unscrupulous powers taking advantage of it to try to extend their possessions in the Balkans – Serbia, perhaps, or Italy which was currently in Albania together with Austria but might choose to act on its own if the circumstances were right, or even, and this would be the most serious, Russia.

Martin nodded sagely. The article seemed to be much more concerned with showing how much the reporters knew about the region than actually telling him anything useful. But t
hat's how journalists were. They liked to parade their knowledge. Speculate on things happening a long way away at some indefinite date in the future. Which was interesting enough, but not useful when it came to dealing with things that were an immediate, serious concern.

At least it seemed the Austrian business needn’t be.

He turned to another article. It announced that a rising in Mexico city was being predicted. Predicted, for God’s sake. Weird. Nothing had actually happened. 

Mexico city, where they could predict their uprisings
Still, he had to admit there might be something in it when he read that British residents in the city had held “a mass meeting on Saturday night at which they made final plans for the defence concentration of the district.” So people could see trouble coming but they couldn't do anything about it. That must be terrifying.

Abroad was a funny place. He was glad he was living in Manchester.


Anonymous said...

An impressive piece. Keep up the momentum. I am learning history on the cheap. Thanks

David Beeson said...

Many thanks, San. I'm glad you're enjoying it

Awoogamuffin said...

I'm happy too- I never really did understand how Franz Ferdinand's death led to the war, but this time, hopefully, I will

David Beeson said...

Err... not sure I fully understand it either... perhaps we can get to a clearer understanding together