The black hand of history

For many people, the man who killed the Archduke was, however unwittingly, responsible for igniting the flames of war in Europe. But the story of the puny but determined Serb terrorist Gavrilo Princip is not just a case of “who was to blame”. It also raises several “what ifs”. The sinister secret nationalist organisation that trained and brainwashed Princip and his accomplices sheds much light on the run-up to the Great War.
Above all, the outrages committed by the Black Hand show the strong forces that are unleashed when a large empire is faced with state-sponsored terrorism. In the end, the warmongers prevailed in Vienna and the ultimatum issued to Serbia was shockingly harsh. Fatefully, Austria had not even found evidence that Franz Ferdinand's assassination had been planned in Belgrade. The Russian tsar felt compelled to respond and when he mobilised, Germany opted for preventive war on both fronts.

This article, which first appeared in the Great War centenary issue of Unforgiving Servant, reviews the incredible tale of Princip, whose actions and words before and after his arrest plunged the continent into the abyss.

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