Author claims a lie about teenage assassin brought world to war

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The world went to war in 1914 because of a lie, according to a new book about the teenage assassin who fired the fatal shot that sparked the conflict.

Writer Tim Butcher has traced the footsteps of Gavrilo Princip who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, dead in the streets of Sarajevo.

His death in 1914 saw Austria-Hungary declare war on Serbia which it said was behind the attack – a move that eventually drew Germany, France, Russia and Britain into the conflict, the First World War, that left millions dead.

Mr Butcher, who spent three years researching Princip and even uncovered his old school reports, said there is no evidence the Serbian government was behind it.

He said: “It was a claim made repeatedly by hawks in Vienna to justify an attack on Serbia, a claim that was accepted at the time by some historians and repeated even today by contemporary historians. But it is a claim not supported by evidence.

“Princip spent time in the Serbian capital before the assassination, and he met extremist nationalists there who helped arm him and smuggle him back to Sarajevo. But it does not follow these extremists were backed, authorised or even known about by the Serbian government.

Mr Butcher, whose book The Trigger – Hunting The Assassin Who Brought The World To War comes out next month, said Princip could not “reasonably be accused of being a Serbian nationalist”.