The Trigger: Tim Butcher

81HsiL6LBUL._SL1500_ On a Summer morning in Sarajevo a hundred years ago, a teenage assassin fired not just the opening shots of the First World War but the starting gun for modern history. By killing the archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, Gavrilo Princip set in motion a chain of events which would change the world order. With his easy-to-read writing style Tim Butcher has produced a marvel of explanation as to why such an apparently small episode in a distant province of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire should lead to the greatest conflagration the world had ever seen. Part travelogue and part history Butcher takes his reader through the process of understanding how these events came about. As a war correspondent in the Serbian war or 1992-4 Butcher had a front row seat of the awful events of the time, a process of genocide which the world had not experienced since the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945. The complexity of the ethnic groups and their animosity towards each other is well documented. We are given a sensitive insight into the mind set of Princip. By visiting his family and travelling the same route as Princip did form mountain village to school at Sarajevo, on to the capital Belgrade and back again we trace the very footsteps of Princip on is short but fateful life journey. Events around the assassination are well described. How a combination of folly on behalf of the staff of the Archduke (they re-planned the route of the car procession after the first failed assassination attempt but failed to tell the drivers) and the sheer luck of Princip; the Archduke’s car stopped exactly in front of him as the driver paused to find reverse gear, is utterly extraordinary. Butcher points out that much of what history has to say about this nineteen year old Bosnian Serb student is misplaced. Princip’s aim was to reunite the Southern Slaves so that they could live as a single nation, not primarily to throw off the Austrio-Hungarian ruling yoke. If you are planning to read any books about the World War I this year this is as good a place to start as any.