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The story has so often been told: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Habsburg Empire, was shot dead on June 28, 1914, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Thirty days later, the Archduke's uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph, declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia, producing the chain
reaction of European powers entering the First World War.
In Misfire, Paul Miller-Melamed narrates the history of the Sarajevo assassination and the origins of World War I from the perspective of the Balkans. Rather than focusing on the bang of assassin Gavrilo Princip's gun or reinforcing the mythology that has arisen around this act, Miller-Melamed
embeds the incident in the longer-term conditions of the Balkans that gave rise to the political murder. He thus illuminates the centrality of the Bosnian Crisis and the Balkan Wars of the early twentieth century to European power politics, while explaining how Serbs, Bosnians, and Habsburg leaders
negotiated their positions in an increasingly dangerous geopolitical environment. Despite the absence of evidence tying official Serbia to the assassination conspiracy, Miller-Melamed shows how it spiraled into a diplomatic crisis that European statesmen proved unable to resolve peacefully.
Contrasting the vast disproportionality between a single deadly act and an act of war that would leave ten million dead, Misfire contends that the real causes for the world war lie in "civilized" Europe rather than the endlessly discussed political murder.
Paul Miller-Melamed teaches history at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland and McDaniel College in the United States. He is the author of From Revolutionaries to Citizens: Antimilitarism in France, 1870-1914 and the co-editor of Embers of Empire: Continuity and Rupture in the
Habsburg Successor States after 1914.
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