One Morning in Sarajevo : 28 June 1914, Paperback

One Morning in Sarajevo : 28 June 1914 Paperback

2 out of 5 (1 rating)


Sarajevo, 28 June 1914: The story of the assassination that changed the world.

A historical account of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Using newly available sources and older material, David James Smith brilliantly reinvestigates and reconstructs the events which subsequently determined the shape of the twentieth century.

Young Gavrilo Princip arrived at the Vlajnic pastry shop in Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina on the morning of 28 June 1914.

He was greeted by his fellow conspirators in the plot to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The Archduke, next in line to succeed as Emperor of Austria, was beginning a state visit to Sarajevo later that morning.

Ferdinand was not a very popular character - widely thought of as bad-tempered and arrogant and perhaps even deranged.

To the young students he embodied everything they loathed about imperial oppression.

They planned to kill him at about 11 o'clock as he paraded down Appel Quay to the town hall in his open top car.

What happened in those few hours - leading as it did to the First and Second World Wars - is as compelling as any thriller.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336 pages, 16
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780753825846



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One Morning In Sarajevo is a painstakingly well-researched account of the assassination by Gavrilo Princip of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian imperial throne. It is one of the very few individual moments in history that changed everything. Austria never recovered from the shot that Princip fired and the rise of Nazism and Communism in Europe were ushered along by the fallout that the World War I created while the 550 or so years since the fall of Constantinople of Turkish involvement in Europe came to a crashing end. Smith's account tells of the details behind the mostly young mostly Serb conspirators as they plotted their way towards Franz Ferdinand's killing, it shows who they were and the relationship they had to a dream of ending the oppression of the South Slavs. What the account most assuredly does not do is deliver this great message well and the first half of the book is remarkably difficult to get through. The time from the arrival of the Archduke in Bosnia to the descriptions of the jail conditions the conspirators ultimately faced is a more reasonable read.That the book is so badly written is a real shame. A decent editor might have caught the challenging sentence construction that left many key facts essentially reading as lists while the attempt to popularise this history falls very short. Smith attempts to generate a present tense description of Princip and co as they go from generalised rage about the plight of Serbs for 500 years to a murder but the character motivations are not well expressed. Smith skips between tenses in the middle of sentences and breaks out of the narrative irregularly to pass academic comment on the assertions of others or to produce a weak analogy to 9/11. The academic discussions are sometimes fair even if they are often surrounding a piece of detail that does not really matter but occasionally they are excellent such as Smith's description of why the conspirators failed to commit suicide as intended. The modern analogies are clumsy and speak to an audience who probably will not be reading a history book.Why it is a shame that the book is such a struggle is that Smith has a truly excellent message. The underlying assessment is that the young idealists represented an ethnicity that had been repressed for some 500 years, mostly by the Ottomans but latterly by the Austrians. The Serbs like many other nations in the 20th century finally fought back against their oppressors and created something for themselves. The demonising of the Serbian people in the last decade of the 20th century fails to understand the struggle that these people have faced for so many centuries. The last chapter of the book is an explicit and unnecessary description of this underlying message and was probably intended to round off the story but it is a very difficult art for an academic author to place themselves into the narrative without it distracting from the tale and Smith does not achieve this distinction.The chain of events that Smith does put forward is fascinating and when not written like a list makes for an occasionally heart-rending account as the conspirators involve many people inadvertently and some of those who had no desire to become involved face extremely difficult ends. This is a side to the idealist that is never really seen - their great cause may or may not be achieved but so often those around the idealist must suffer the consequences. In Princip's case of course World War I breaks out though he nor his conspirators can be blamed for the German diversion around the Maginot Line that triggered British involvement and guaranteed the deaths of many more millions.On One Morning In Sarajevo the world changed. Smith puts the context of that change into place with his underlying messages and if the explicit descriptions of the people in that place had been delivered better this would have been a truly remarkable work. The depth of research is excellent and perhaps Smith might have been better served with producing a more academic work but as it is, the work adds an extra layer of understanding to those two shots that altered history.

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