The 28th June saw both the trigger and the definitive end of the First World War. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 had a direct effect on the outbreak of war, while the Treaty of Versailles was signed on exactly the same date five years later in 1919.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand offers one of the most popular counter-factual debates in history: What if the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne had not been shot dead by the Serbian nationalist terrorist group the Black Hand? What if the driver of the Archduke’s car had taken a different route? What if the gunman Gavrilo Princip wasn’t standing outside Schiller’s Delicatessen at that exact time? This final point is covered in a bonus HistoryPod in which I discuss a key urban myth regarding the assassination.

The fact is that the violent death of Franz Ferdinand directly led to the outbreak of war as it caused Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia. The network of pre-war alliances led to the conflict quickly involving all the major powers of Europe.

The fact that the Treaty that officially ended the war was signed five years to the day of the assassination was coincidence. Firstly the complex negotiations had taken six months to complete, meaning the final Treaty wasn’t handed to the German delegation until the 7th May. Furthermore, having studied the 440 Articles of the Treaty with no opportunity for discussion, the German delegation rejected it as unfair. It was only when the Allies threatened to restart the war that the government reluctantly signed.

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