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View series: Europe and nations, 1815-1914

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Outbreak of the First World War

This map is part of a series of 24 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1815-1914.

On June 28, 1914, the archduke of Austria, Francis-Ferdinand, is assassinated with his spouse in the town of Sarajevo, by a Bosnian nationalist student.

The government of Vienna uses this event as a pretext to rule with an iron fist in Serbia, whose Greater Yugoslavia project threatens the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

-July 28: Vienna declares war on Serbia.

-July 30: Russia, Serbia’s protector, decrees a general mobilization.

-August 1: Germany, allied with Austria, declares war on Russia, whereas France takes its turn to mobilize.

-August 3: Germany engages in hostilities against France.

-The following day, August 4, Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality leads England to join France and Russia in war.

Within a few weeks, the system of alliances that had been set up in Europe plunged the continent into war, the great majority of national public opinions failing to mobilize in order to preserve the peace.

The war that was supposed to be resolved in short order instead goes on for four years; hostilities expand, step by step, drawing other participants into the slaughter. The Ottoman Empire enters in the month of October 1914 - Italy, then Bulgaria in May and October 1915 - Romania in September 1916 - Greece in June 1917.

Meanwhile, America’s declaration of war against Germany in April of 1917 lends global status to this war, which already involves European colonial empires.

The results of this interminable conflict will be: eight million dead, twenty million wounded and maimed; Europe will emerge from it profoundly weakened, shattered. As in an earlier century, it will have to be rebuilt, but in the horror of what has been called “The Great War,” Europe has sacrificed, not only its position as a world leader, but its vision for its own future, as well.

At the time that peace is being made, it is Wilson, the American president, who will put forward the principles on which to found a New World Order.