August 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of what we now call World War I. The wars in Europe since 1815 had been brief affairs. The expectation was that this would also be brief. The Colorado Gazette
of August 23, 1914, called it “the Biggest Family Row of History.”
The war would last four years and mark the end of what some historians call the long 19th century, which they date from the French Revolution to 1914. It was the beginning of the end of several European societies; the empires of Russia, Austro-Hungary and Germany did not survive the conflict. Eastern Europe was completely reshaped politically by the war and the peace that followed it. Great Britain struggled with its economic consequences. The European conflicts of the 1930s and World War II are direct results of it, too. America’s Historical Newspapers
can help students and scholars explore and understand this conflagration in new ways.
The crisis that started it actually began six weeks earlier, when the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Serbian nationalists. Other European royalty and government officials had been assassinated in the three decades previous to this killing, but they did not set off a general European war. This killing of the archduke, and the death of his wife in the same attack, would.