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Hello and welcome to this Lesson One of Six on the inquiry, Did the Assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand lead to the Outbreak of World War I? My name's Mr. Hewitt.

I'll introduce myself properly in a moment but, for today's lesson, you're going to need a pen and something to write on, and you'll need to make sure that wherever you are, you're free of any distractions.

Now, our title for today is Systems of Alliance.

I'll give you a moment to write that down and then we'll move on when you're ready.


I'm Mr. Hewitt and I'm going to be teaching the whole of this inquiry on the causes of the first World War.

As I mentioned, this lesson's about alliance systems, but we're going to start off talking about the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

It's lovely to meet all of you, and I hope to see you for the rest of these lessons also.

So why did the first World War really start? Well, it's a difficult question, and we have to begin by telling the story of this person, the Archduke, Franz Ferdinand.

And in 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austria Hungary was a large Central European power which doesn't exist anymore because of the war.

And he was heir to the throne, so that means he was going to take over the empire, but he never made it that far because, tragically, on the 28th of June, 1914, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

And this assassination sparked a chain of events, the July crisis, which led to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

But how does the death of just one man lead to such an enormous conflict? Well, the story of the assassination is an interesting place to start.

You see, Austria-Hungary was increasing its power and influence in the region of the Balkans.

The Balkans is in southeastern Europe and contains countries like Bosnia and Serbia.

And people living in Bosnia and Serbia weren't happy with the Austro-Hungarians governing them.

In fact, one individual, Gavrilo Princip, became famous, for it was him who assassinated the duke, along with a group of other Serbian nationalists.

They wanted to send a message to Austria-Hungary, you're not welcome in the Balkans region.

Princip and the other assassins had plotted for the duke's arrival in the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Many of them had different weapons, such as bombs and guns, and stood along the route which the duke's car was due to take through the city.

Several of the assassins tried to take Franz Ferdinand's life, but failed.

For example, one threw a bomb, which landed near the duke's car, exploding, but not killing the duke, only injuring others around him.

The duke's car sped away to the town hall, where the duke still went ahead with his speech, as planned, shaken, and with the blood of his assistants on his notes.

After the speech, Franz Ferdinand decided to visit those people who'd been injured in a local hospital.

His driver took a different, unplanned route from the town hall, made a wrong turn and braked sharply on a corner.

And by coincidence, Princip, who had earlier been one of the assassins waiting for Franz Ferdinand, was stood on this very corner, having wandered off into the city despondent at what he thought was his missed opportunity.

Well, now he saw a final chance and, pulling a pistol out from his waistband, he fired several shots, which killed the Archduke and his wife.

But this one death, how could it lead to the outbreak of World War I? I'll get my head out of the way so that you can see better.

And this is just a reminder for you of what we've talked about.

This is the Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who was murdered by a Serbian, Gavrilo Princip, on the 28th of June, 1914.

Well, take a look at this map.

The arrow points to Sarajevo, the city where the duke was murdered, and you might be able to see Serbia just below that, which shares its northern border with Austria-Hungary.

This map shows a lot more than just that, though.

It also shows the alliance systems which underpinned European power in 1914, and these alliance systems are absolutely essential to understanding how Franz Ferdinand's death and a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia could have resulted in a major European conflict.

Study the map and try to answer these questions: Which nations formed the Triple Alliance, which the Triple Entente, and remind yourself which empire borders Serbia to the north.

Pause the video, write down your answers, and when you're happy, come back to the video and we'll share our thoughts.


The Triple Alliance contained Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, whilst the Triple Entente contained Britain, France and Russia.

Now, entente is a French word meaning agreement.

You're absolutely right, Serbia's northern border was with Austria-Hungary.


So I wonder, could an alliance have been a cause of the war itself? Now look at this cartoon.

Each of the figures in this cartoon represents one of the European powers.

On the far left is Serbia.

They're shown as a small figure, because the Serbians weren't a great military power.

And look, just behind Serbia is Austria raising their fist and saying, "If you make a move, I'll.

." as though to threaten the Serbians.

Who's that threatening the Austrians? The two central largest figures, they're crucial to understanding this puzzle, and then the individual at the back, I wonder if you can work out who they represent.

That's the person running with a bowler hat and waistcoat.

Take a look at those questions.

Which nation is threatening Serbia? Which nation does the man wearing a waistcoat at the back represent, and which two nations in the centre of the cartoon are portrayed as the largest and most powerful? Pause the video and, when you're ready, come back and we'll look at your answers.

Well done.

Austria-Hungary was indeed threatening Serbia, and you've got it absolutely right, Britain is the figure at the back represented by the main wearing a waistcoat.

Britain is shown as so far away because the cartoonist is trying to indicate that Britain isn't closely related to the struggle between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, but they're running to get involved, just like the French alongside them.

Indeed, Russia and Germany do appear to be the most powerful nations, and that's because they had the largest armies.

Well done.

So we can see from this cartoon and the map of earlier how alliance systems could contribute to the outbreak of war, because, look.

If one country attacks another, that country's allies might join in to support it.

For example, where you see Germany attacking Russia, you see the other members of the Triple Entente, Russia's allies, France and Britain, running to attack Germany.

Because of alliance systems, it was possible for one conflict between just two countries to draw many other countries into the fighting.

But why were the Russians threatening Austria-Hungary just because of their conflict with Serbia? I wonder, could we make an analogy between the way dominoes fall and the risks of these alliance systems? For example, if one domino were Austria-Hungary and it falls into conflict, do others, like Germany, its ally, follow? Hmm.

Well, now it's time to return to Serbia and the Balkans.

This is Otto von Bismarck speaking.

Von Bismarck was one of the founders of the German state in the 19th century.

And look, he makes a remarkable prophecy here.

"If there ever is another war in Europe, "it will come out of some silly thing in the Balkans." Remember, the Balkans is that region of Europe where the Archduke was killed by a Serbian.

And the way von Bismarck talks about the Balkans, the silly thing, makes it clear that he thought the Balkans were a small and unimportant region of Europe, which fighting over would be foolish, but it could end up in a larger struggle.

There's a map of the Balkans in the present day.

You can see it highlighted in blue.

It's in the southeast of Europe, as I mentioned.

Now, the Russians were interested in protecting the Balkans from Austria-Hungary for two reasons.

First of all, the Russians didn't want Austria-Hungary extending its power to the south of their empire.

But also, and crucially, the Russians thought that the people of the Balkans were culturally and ethnically and traditionally similar to Russians.

They were Slavic people, so when Austria-Hungary threatened to invade Serbia, the Russians felt as though they should defend the Serbians.

This is exactly why Princip and other Serbians resented Austria-Hungary.

They felt that they had an identity that was different to the Austria-Hungarian identity.

They felt that they were Slavic and they did not want to be ruled by a Central European power.

The Russians also didn't want the Balkans to be ruled by a Central European power, such as Austria-Hungary.

Well, here's a timeline of the July Crisis.

We start out with the assassination of the duke, and then something I need to explain to you a little more, the blank check.

Because you see, before Austria-Hungary went to war with Serbia, they visited the Germans to ask for support, and the Germans gave them what they called a blank check, or in other words, they would give them full military support no matter what came out of their invasion of Serbia.

On the 26th of July, Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary to protect Serbia.

Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia just two days later, and then, by the 3rd of August, Germany had invaded France.

This invasion of France by Germany was related to alliance systems. The Germans thought that if they would join Austria-Hungary in fighting Russia, then the French would join fighting Germany on the Russian side.

We'll come back to this point in our next lesson on the Schlieffen Plan.

The comprehension questions for this lesson are right there.

Now, I'd like you to pause the video, have a go at these and, when you're ready, we can return and I'll share some of the answers I have with you.

Hi, I'm back.

So let's look at that first question, who was assassinated in July, 1914? Well, if you wrote the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, outstanding, that's the correct answer.

You might have gone a little bit further and said, while visiting the Balkans on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip.

What about our second question, can you describe the two major alliance systems in Europe in 1914? Well, if you said the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, that's really good work.

You might have improved as well.

You might, for example, have said, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed the Triple Alliance in Central Europe, while Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente encircling the central powers.

What did Germany offer Austria-Hungary when preparing for war with Serbia? Well, if you have written a blank check, you know, full support, that is great work.

You could have gone a bit further and said, the Germany High Command offered Austria-Hungary military support in the event of a war resulting from their invasion of Serbia, and this was the blank check.

What about this question, how did these alliance systems make a war more likely? Well, if you answered, if one country attacked, others would join it, that's great work.

You could have improved your answer and said, because the European powers depended on each other for security, they could easily be drawn into major conflicts quickly, and if, for example, Britain and Germany were to go to war, so too would their allies have to join the fight.

Then there's, can you explain the psychological, or in the mind, impact of these systems on European powers? Well, if you wrote something similar to the European powers were scared of each other and wanted to keep each other as allies, you've done outstanding work.

You could have developed your answer further and written something similar to, these systems made nations feel that they needed to keep their allies on side and, knowing that a war with one might mean a war with all, nations were more likely to strike first.

I'm so impressed.

You've completed the questions.

There's even some extra work, an extension task, where you return to the inquiry on the next slide.

And there it is.

Using that timeline, can you tell the story of how the assassination led to the July Crisis and war? You've got a couple of sentence-starters and some key words.

And I'd be really interested to see what you come up with.

So would all of us at Oak, so if you'd like to share your work with us and you've got a parent or guardian who can use Twitter, you can take a photograph and share it with us using these details.

I look forward to seeing you next time for our lesson on the Schlieffen Plan.

See you later.