How did the assassination of Franz Ferdinand lead to World War I?

Jun 2009
Glorious England
Forgive my ingorance, generous Historumites, but I've never fully understood this. Wouldn't the logical conclusion be capturing the assassins and putting them on trial, and the archdukes succession continuing as normal? :confused:


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
Serbian independence movement was involved and most likely Serbian military intelligence (gave them weapons). The Serbians were an existential threat to the Austria-Hungarian Empire, a multi-ethnic state, where the only real glue in many ways was historical accident. If one chunk of the empire broker away on the basis of ethnic independence the whole basis of the empire was undermined. Killing Royal heirs was pretty big stuff. But a lot of people in the Austrian high command really wanted to solve the Serbian problem (not nesscarily outright annexation but at least tech them a lesson so they would accept status quo)

The Austrians had decided on war, there is little else to read from their dismissal of the Serbian response to their note, where the Serbs basiscally gave in to all but one of the 14 demands. They would have been much better off just declaring war and invading, most likely they could have got away with an immediate war. But they were nervious about acting along, sought German backing (and were given the famous blank cheque)
Aug 2010
Welsh Marches
and the archdukes succession continuing as normal
Curiously, that at least could not have happened, because Franz Ferdinand had married a woman who was not of royal blood, and his children were thus excluded from the succession. The simple answer to the broader question is that Austria wanted to to settle matters once and for all with the Serbs, far beyond the specific issue of the assassination, and deliberately issued an ultimatum that the Serbs could not accept without sacrificing their own soveriegnty to an unacceptable degree; nonetheless they accepted most of the points, and a settlement could have ben achieved if the Austrians had really wanted one. The next factor was that the Germans offered unconditional support to the Austrians instead of trying to exercise a moderating influence, perhaps by suporting Sir Edward Grey's proposal for a conference in London. The Russians did urge the Serbs to take a conciliatory line, but it was difficult for the Russians to stand aside when Serbia was place under threat; for them to have viewed the question in terms of a rational calculation of interests would, paradoxically, have required some moral courage, a quality that was simply not possessed by a weak and fatalistic ruler like Nicholas. Another important factor is that that nobody sat down and took a deliberate cold and deliberate decision to start a European war; the various parties simply took a series of measures that started a process that led up to that, as though by reaction to other people's actions, the mobilizations of course being a crucial factor in that.
Nov 2010
Hôtel d'Alsace, PARIS
Right. And, well, here's a thing:
the Germans through arrogance had let all good relations lapse between themselves and Britain, France, and Russia.
Britain and France had an entente since ~1902; France and Russia, ditto. (Also Britain and Japan.)
The Germans planned on a military solution wherein they could defeat both Russia and France before the Brits could intervene (the Schlieffen Plan, completed 1905). From then on, the Germans felt time was against them.

There were two 'dry runs' in 1912-13: Balkan wars.

So by the time of August 1914, the sabres were really stacked and ready to fall.
Aug 2010
Welsh Marches
The point of the alliances, at least from a British point of view, was to balance the powers in Europe so that no one would gain a dangerous predominance, and the risk of conflict would be kept to a minimum. There had in fact been remarkably little fighting between nations in Europe since the end of the Napoleonic Wars (effectively just the wars provoked by Bismarck); but the trouble was that if the network of alliances failed to deter war, it could lead to a very major war. Britain was not absolutely obliged by any treaty to enter the war until the Germans violated the neutrality of Belgium (so a rather minor element in the mix provided the spark in its case).
Aug 2010
franz is killed by a serbian rebel. austrea decleras war on serbia, russia in alliance with serbia declers war on austrea, germany allied with austrea declers war on russia, france allied with ruissia declers war on germany. germany marches througe belgim to attack france so britain attacks germany for violateing belgim nutrality.

i think thats it
Jul 2010
Georgia, USA
Austria and Serbia seemed to be at odds for quite a while before the assassinations. Other than an act unacceptable to the Austrians, all other eventual belligerents that were authoritarian monarchies entered on an over inflated sense of national honor to uphold their treaty obligations. France and Germany would fight over a flattened football if there was no other reason. As far as I can tell, Britain presented the best example of popular indignation over Germany's actions in Belgium, spurring their entry. The entendres of treaties are too complex for me to get a clear picture.
Nov 2009
It was an excuse for the Austro-Hungarians to settle accounts with Serbia. It might not have led to war except for Germany's ill-thought out promise of support, which emboldened the Austro-Hungarian government into invading Serbia. Even then, it might have been a regional war had not the Serbians called on the Russians for aid, and the resulting Russian mobilization that ultimately forced Germany's hand.