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View series: The first World War, 1914-1918

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Europe Plunges into War

This map is part of a series of 20 animated maps showing the history of The first World War, 1914-1918.

In the morning of June 28, 1914, the procession of the Archduke of Austria was making its way towards City Hall in Sarajevo, when a bomb was hurled in its direction. The Archduke, seated in the second car, was uninjured and was able to continue his route. A half hour later, while returning, the procession passed in front of Schiller’s Store, where a young Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, was waiting. Princip fired two shots, mortally wounding the heir to the Austrian throne and his wife.

This attack was carried out by a group of young Bosnian nationalists hostile to the Austrian presence. In the weeks that followed, the Viennese government used the event to challenge Serbia, which was planning to bring together all the southern Slavic peoples into a greater Yugoslavia, thus threaten the unity of the Austro‑Hungarian Empire.

28 July, Vienna declared war on Serbia and bombed Belgrade.

30 July, Russia, Serbia’s protector, declared a general mobilization.

1 August, Germany, Austria’s ally, declared war on Russia, while France also mobilized its forces.

3 August, Germany declared war on France.

The next day, 4 August, Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality pushed England into joining France and Russia in the war.

In a matter of days, the system of alliances put into place in Europe plunged the continent into war, public opinion in the great majority of countries failing to mobilize to preserve the peace.

The war, which should have been of short duration, would instead last for more than 4 years, and spread progressively to other belligerents. The Ottoman Empire entered the war in November 1914, Italy, then Bulgaria in May and October 1915, Portugal and Romania in March and September 1916, Greece in June 1917.

In the interim, the United States’ declaration of war on Germany in April 1917 gave the war a global status, which already involved European colonial empires.