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The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War Hardcover – 1 May 2014
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"A triumph… A marvellously absorbing book on the nature of one man’s political grievance and its terrible aftermath" (Ian Thomson Observer Books of the Year)
"The most imaginative and singular book on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War to date... This is expeditionary journalism at its best – a historical inquest radiated through the mind and experience of an outstanding reporter" (Robert Fox Evening Standard)
"A masterpiece of historical empathy and evocation... This book is a tour de force" (Christopher Clark Guardian)
"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 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...See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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. The 1914 assassination would have caused no more than a ripple of sympathy if Austria-Hungary and Germany had not turned it to their advantage. Anyone who doubts this should read the obituaries printed in every major European and USA paper.
The author's tells us how he discovered Princip's tomb during the siege of Sarajevo, a tomb that was being desecrated by Sarajevans. It is an extraordinary story, as is his account of how he came to be fascinated as a child by the 1914-18 war.
In some 12 chapters the author analyses, for example, Princip's troublesome upbringing, his education which was of crucial importance, the reasons why he joined the cause, the annexation crisis, his bravery, the trial and the way his actions have been distorted in many other accounts by historians.
Of major interest is how the author shows that much written about the assassination is a lie. Errors abound in numerous accounts. He documents these in detail.
By using primary sources e.g. the police reports, psychiatric notes and court transcripts, Butcher explains, for example, that Princip's schooling resulted in him losing his way at an early age, and what motivated him as a very young man to engage in the assassination of the Archduke on 28 June 1914.
Unfortunately, revolts in the Balkans in the 1990s led to the destruction of many original documents concerning Princip. Nevertheless, Butcher has been able to marshal impressive evidence to demonstrate that many of the written accounts of the actual assassination are pure fiction. It is clear, for example, that Sophie's death was a pure accident. Butcher, as have others, also scotches the view that Princip was acting solely for Serbia, his story has been twisted by Austria Hungary and Germany in order to justify the former's attack on Serbia. In brief, the author believes the war came about as the result of deliberate lies, by Austria-Hungary in particular. He adds that by the 1990's Princip had become in the Balkans:'a scapegoat for all seasons'.
Butcher has a great deal of sympathy for Princip seeing him as a freedom fighter fighting to free his land from tyranny. His reasons are balanced and convincing. He rightly criticises accounts that state Princip's nationality, in truth he swas a Bosnian. His argument that the assassination had no support from the Serbian government, and that Austro-Hungary used it as an excuse, a fig leaf, to attack Serbia, is irrefutable in the light of currently available evidence. The assassination was used in the same way that Tony Blair and Bush used WMD to justify the invasion of Iraq. Both were based on lies and resulted in tragedy and scores of dead and maimed. Austria's action, backed by Germany, changed the map of Europe.The gross lies of Blair, continuing to this day, are changing the map of the Middle East.
At his trial, Princip insisted that his motives were fuelled by a hatred of the Austrian colonial occupiers of his country, and that he wanted to liberate all south Slavs. He was too young to be given the death sentence (he avoided it by a few days only) so instead he was sentenced to 20 years in a military jail, permanently shackled with 22lb leg irons. 3 of the other conspirators were hanged, two were pardoned.
The author reminds us also of the significance of the number plate on the Archduke's Graf and Stift car, it read: A11118! I know of only one other account that has mentioned this astonishing fact. It is also pleasing to note that Tim is aware that the Archduke's car did have a reverse gear-it can be seen today! So many accounts make the basic error of stating there was no reverse gear. Clearly, the authors have never been to Sarajevo.
Princip died in prison his bones eaten away by tuberculosis. He also lost an arm during his time in jail.
The notes, photographs, maps and bibliography are excellent.
I am pleased to see the sources include Vladimir Dedijer's book 'The Road To Sarajevo'. It is an outstanding book, as is Rudolf Zisler's: 'How I Came To Defend Princip and Others', published in 1937.
Not to be missed.
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?
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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It is a mixture between a biography of Gavrilo Princip, a general history of Bosnia, a travelogue of the author tracing the path of the...Read more