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Great War: Unknown War

Leading scholars discuss the start of the First World War in Eastern Europe

Published: 2 July 2014Origin: History
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Specialists in the history of the Habsburg Empire and the South Slav lands from a dozen countries gathered at the University of Southampton for the only conference this year in Western Europe to focus on the impact of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie at Sarajevo in June 1914.

Held appropriately on the exact date of the shooting, one hundred years on, the event covered subjects ranging from treachery and loyalty in Croatia, Serbian military intelligence and the role of Russia to the aftermath of events in the Bosnian capital in modern memory.

“All too often, people in the UK think the First World War was all about trench warfare in France and Belgium, yet it was a far wider conflict,” explains conference organiser Professor Mark Cornwall. “My aim was to encourage broad debate about political, social, military, international and domestic questions at the beginning of the war in Eastern Europe by inviting both senior academics who have worked in this field for many years to contribute and young researchers embarking on their careers.”

Keynote speakers and internationally renowned scholars Professors Christopher Clark from Cambridge and Lothar Höbelt from Vienna set the scene by addressing the importance of the assassinations and why this ‘third Balkan War’ turned into an international conflict.

Opening the conference, Austrian Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Emil Brix, spoke of parallels between tensions in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century and today. “The Great War saw the end of the old order - the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Ottoman empire, Tsarist Russia, Imperial Germany - and the rise of nation states. Central and Eastern Europe changed out of all recognition and the process created many of the issues that led us to the Second World War and recent turmoil in the region.”

A selection of the papers delivered at the conference will be published in 2015 as a record of the event.

Austrian Ambassador Emil Brix at Sarajevo 1914: Spark and Impact
Austrian Ambassador Emil Brix

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