I’m running a little late, but June 28th, marks a grim anniversary.
100 years ago Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie were assassinated by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip.
This set in motion the events that caused the First World War, an event that changed the world forever. The Great War changed how the world looked at warfare. It marked the end of Old Europe and removed the last of the truly powerful absolute monarchs of the west. Some nations vanished, others were born, and lines on the map were redrawn in ways that we are still facing repercussions for.
Entire generations were depopulated over the course of four years of unprecedented brutality.
At least in the United States, World War I isn’t part of the collective consciousness. It isn’t taught well in our schools and it isn’t understood the way World War II is. I believe part of this is because the world of the 1930’s and 40’s is still recognizable to us as part of the modern world, socially and politically. But the world of 1914 is alien to us, seemingly more in line with the 19th century than the 20th. Yet despite all that, the foundations of many struggles we’re facing today were laid down in that seemingly distant time period.
On July 28th, 30 days after the assassination, the first declaration of war was made and The Great War officially began.
Four years later and with over 16 million people killed, the war ended on November 11th, 1918.
The last known veteran of the First World War was Florence Green, who died only two years ago.
The last people to be killed by the Great War died three months ago, when an unearthed shell exploded.