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The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War [Hardcover]

Tim Butcher
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2014

On a summer morning in Sarajevo a hundred years ago, a teenage assassin named Gavrilo Princip fired not just the opening shots of the First World War but the starting gun for modern history, when he killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Yet the events Princip triggered were so monumental that his own story has been largely overlooked, his role garbled and motivations misrepresented.

The Trigger puts this right, filling out as never before a figure who changed our world and whose legacy still has an impact on all of us today. Born a penniless backwoodsman, Princip's life changed when he trekked through Bosnia and Serbia to attend school. As he ventured across fault lines of faith, nationalism and empire, so tightly clustered in the Balkans, radicalisation slowly transformed him from a frail farm boy into history's most influential assassin.

By retracing Princip's journey from his highland birthplace, through the mythical valleys of Bosnia to the fortress city of Belgrade and ultimately Sarajevo, Tim Butcher illuminates our understanding both of Princip and the places that shaped him. Tim uncovers details about Princip that have eluded historians for a century and draws on his own experience, as a war reporter in the Balkans in the 1990s, to face down ghosts of conflicts past and present.

The Trigger is a rich and timely work that brings to life both the moment the world first went to war and an extraordinary region with a potent hold over history.

Frequently Bought Together

The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War + Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart + Chasing the Devil: On Foot Through Africa's Killing Fields
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (1 May 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 070118793X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701187934
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tim Butcher is a British best-selling author and explorer whose books blend history with travel.

His latest, The Trigger, tells the story of the young man who sparked the First World War a hundred years ago by shooting dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand on a street corner in Sarajevo. Tim trekked across Bosnia and part of Serbia on the trail of history's greatest assassin, Gavrilo Princip, making a number of discoveries missed by a century of historians.

His first book, Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, told the story of an epic solo journey through the Congo. Translated into six languages, it topped the Sunday Times best-seller list in Britain and was shortlisted for various awards from the Samuel Johnson Prize in London to the Ryszard Kapuściński Award in Warsaw.

For his second, Chasing The Devil, he walked for 350 miles through Liberia along a trail blazed by a whisky-sozzled Graham Greene in 1935. He discovered, among other things, that Greene's life was saved by his indomitable but unsung cousin, Barbara Greene. The book made it onto the longlist for the George Orwell

A former foreign correspondent with The Daily Telegraph, Tim specialised in covering awkward places at awkward times: Kurdistan under attack in 1991 by Saddam Hussein, Sarajevo during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the Allied attack on Iraq in 2003, Israel's 2006 clash with Hizbollah in southern Lebanon among other crises.

He was awarded the 2013 Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and in 2010 received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northampton for services to writing. Born in 1967 he is based in Cape Town with his family.

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Product Description


"A fascinating study of one of those rare individuals whose act of violence changed the history of the world. An incisive, shrewd, wholly compelling investigation of an assassin's life and times" (William Boyd)

"A fabulous book that all First World War historians will now have to take account of. Superb" (Saul David)

"A splendid book. It takes its place among classics of Balkan history" (Norman Stone)

"Tim Butcher goes from strength to strength. I enjoyed every paragraph" (Dervla Murphy)

"Insightful, useful and delightfully written. A great book - one to be recommended to professional and amateur historian alike" (General Sir David Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff)

"Lucid, passionate, urgent" (Rory MacLean)

"This is first class history and in a year swamped with First World War centenary books, it's the one you should read first" (Andrew Roberts)

"A compelling and fascinating read...a shadowy assassin brought to life by an writer who gets to grips with a century of Balkan intrigue" (Kate Adie)

"A marvellously absorbing book... A triumph of research, it will appeal to the layman and historian alike" (Ian Thomson Financial Times)

"Extremely well written, taut and evocative... Despite its complex subject, Butcher makes this an easy and engaging read with his breezy style and fascinating encounters" (Misha Glenny Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

A trek through the Balkans, an exploration of the life of an assassin (the teenager who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and so triggered the First World War), and a journey into the history of this complex and fascinating part of the world...

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Tim Butcher is the author of several books including the excellent 'Blood River'. He is a former journalist, historian and explorer. He is based in Cape Town. His latest book is about a man, an assassin, who provided the excuse for Austria and Germany to embroil mankind in a terrible world war. The author says in order to write this book he had to wade through 'a century of muddle and misinformation'.

Butcher shows how Princip, who was born on 13 July 1894, was an intelligent and focused South Slav who willingly gave his llife for the cause. He was born to a family that experienced extreme poverty. Revelations about Princip's education and motivation are remarkable and novel. A bright scholar, he began to absent himself from school on numerous occasions. As a result his grades plumeted.

The book is also an absorbing travelogue about the Balkans which the author knows very well. It has also a number of pertinent things to say about the recent Bosnian conflct and the appalling behaviour of Serbia. It is an easy book to read that clarifies very complex ethnic and political issues in a region racked by nationalism and related religious issiues.

We are currently being swamped by books on the Great War; this is one of the very few that should not be missed because it is based on new research instead of being yet another rehash of half-truths and myth. It is pleasing that Butcher does not, unlike three recent books, raise the old outdated question about whether the assassination caused the Great War. In the 24 years prior to 1914 there had been 11 assassinations of Kings, Presidents and the like in Europe and America, none of them led to war.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 3 Jun 2014
Gavrillo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 and in doing so triggered the First World War. That much I and most of the rest of us know. What drove Princip to pull the trigger; there I'm a little hazier, what happened to him next and did he achieve his ultimate goal; there I knew nothing. Tim Butcher draws on his experience as a journalist covering the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990's to join the dots between the motivations of Princip at the start of the 20th century and those of is compatriots at end of it.

Butcher sets of to follow the route that Princip took from leaving his remote mountain home to the streets of Sarajevo and the assassination. Bizarrely and a little conveniently he runs into the remains of the Princip family right at the start of his quest. Much of the narrative is taken up with his reminisces of the wars of the 1990's and the horrific acts of barbarism that took place then. Before reading The Trigger I knew enough about the origins of the First World War and about the Yugoslav wars to bluff my way through but now I feel that my understanding of both conflicts is deeper and that I could hold my own with confidence.

An entertaining, interesting and informative read
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is there more to the assassination plot? 27 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author describes the people and places both in recent times and all those years ago in 1914 along the path taken by Gavrilo Princip from his early days, as a student in Belgrade, the idea and preparation for the assassination, the assassination itself, and his eventual demise in prison. It is a convincing account with plenty of interesting detail. The author puts you in his shoes and you see the scenes he sees or pictures in his mind, such as Princip and two other assassins in a Belgrade park learning to shoot.

There is plenty of context and explanation and as the book progresses you feel you really understand the characters, how they lived and what they believed, especially Princip. It also usefully throws light on the problems in that part of the world today.

There is one question and it is the reason why I don't give the book five stars. Is it a complete story of the assassination plot itself? I suspect it isn't. The Black Hand and Apis are mentioned but simply as the suppliers of the hand grenades and pistols.

Ilic, Princip's old friend in Sarajevo, is mentioned and given the co-ordinating role on the assassination day itself.

It seems unlikely that Princip, in Belgrade, simply wrote using round about language to Ilic, in Sarajevo, where Princip had not been for some months and had left before it was publically announced that the Archduke was going to Sarajevo, saying he and two others planned to assassinate the Archduke, they had enough weapons, would he, Ilic, recruit more assassins, and Ilic, almost immediately finds three more in Sarajevo with probably not much more than a month to the Archduke's visit, and one of these additional assassins, like Ilic, has connections with the Black Hand.

Something else was going on. What was it?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By GregB
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found no difficulty in taking on board the author's multi-genre approach (ie. history, travelogue and 90's war reporting in retrospect) which seems to have bothered some reviewers. Before reading Mr. Butcher's book, I had read Greg King's 'The Assassination of the Archduke', essentially a biography of Franz Ferdinand and his family, and it was fascinating to contemplate through reading the two books how these two totally disparate characters - one from the highest echelons of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy, the other from the lowest Bosnian Serb peasantry - were brought together on such separate personal trajectories by fate on that day in June,1914 in Sarajevo.

There's really nothing I can add to the laudatory reviews except for one basically inconsequential caveat - I would have appreciated some photos of the current members of the Princip family with whom Mr. Butcher and his Bosnian friend, Arnie, stayed and interviewed. Perhaps,they were reluctant to be photographed, though; what a pity if so.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Well written
Published 7 days ago by Sarah Plunkett
5.0 out of 5 stars Another outstanding effort
Although initially hesitant about Tim's decision to seek a new adventure out of Africa, I needn't have worried as The Trigger is another outstanding effort from a great... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Matt Richmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
As someone whose knowledge of both the beginnings of the First World War and the complexities of the Balkan wars of the nineties were somewhat sketchy I loved The Trigger. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Gnasher
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner - even though we know how events unfold
This is a fgascinating read, written by an author who was imbedded in Bosnia during the mid 90's. The book shows many parallels between happenings of 1914 and the Bosnian conflict... Read more
Published 1 month ago by CKearney
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly absorbing
This is an impressive book that explores the actions of one young man and how history twisted his aims. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Simon Chanted-Evening
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate introduction to the complexities of the Balkans
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, with some extremely interesting insights into the Bosnian situation today. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr Thomas A Russell
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trigger
What a good book about the assassin of Franz Ferdinand. Original and from original sources, so be prepared to revise any ideas you might have held about this world shattering... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Welder Bob
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative.
I am fascinated by the assassination and the way it created a crisis which grew out of control and resulted in the huge tragedy of the First World War. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Peter Cloke
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating insight into an historical riddle
"The trigger" was well reviewed and having greatly enjoyed his earlier book about his journey down the Congo river, I had high expectations. I was not disappointed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Teresa Gamble
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read!
This book was a good price and arrived very quickly. It is an excellent book concerning an aspect of WW1 you don't often read about. Recommended.
Published 2 months ago by Bugposse
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