The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher Download (read online) free eBook

The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War

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 misreprese

Sep 15, 2016

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review of another edition


Franz Ferdinand (no not the rock band) was the Archduke of the Austro-Hungarians, next in line for the throne, when he was assassinated in July of 1914 in Sarajevo.

Gavrilo Princip was the 19yo Bosnian Serb who murdered him. In his view the best way to bring solidarity amongst all Southern Slavs, they being Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

The assassination of Ferdinand was the trigger that got the dominoes falling. The Austro-Hungarians used the assassination to declare war on S

Gavrilo Princip was the 19yo Bosnian Serb who murdered him. In his view the best way to bring solidarity amongst all Southern Slavs, they being Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

The assassination of Ferdinand was the trigger that got the dominoes falling. The Austro-Hungarians used the assassination to declare war on Serbia, the Russians moved to help the Serbians. Germany took it’s chance to invade France causing the British to declare war on the Germans. A mere two months after Princip pulled the trigger the world awakened to the declaration of World War 1.

The author, Tim Butcher, is a British Journalist who can view the story from a rather unique view. Most of us are aware of the blood thirsty atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian war of the early to mid 1990’s. This was a three sided war at times with all three Bosnian factions fighting each other but when it was over the real truth came out. Mass graves of thousands of civilians were uncovered making the slaughters in this war second only in comparison to the ethnic cleansing undertaken by the Germans in WW2. Tim Butcher covered this war as a journalist from the war zones. He stayed with UN peacekeepers, spoke to civilians and soldiers and saw first hand the demolition and carnage.

The Trigger is Tim’s uncovering of the truths that led to Princip’s assassination of Ferdinand. He walks for days the trails that were covered by a 13yo boy as he leaves his family home to seek education in a better schooling system. Discovers the influences on Princip’s young life and continues to follow the route that led him to be standing on a street corner in July 1914 with a pistol in his hand.

The Bosnian history is laid bare in this book. It’s battles with Austro-Hungary to become its own country, its fights against the Ottomans, the formation and then collapse of Yugoslavia, the communist rule of Tito, the in fighting and wars between the Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

What Butcher does so well is tell two separate stories at once – two different times, 80 years apart. While following in Princip’s footsteps he discusses the Europe and Bosnia as known in the early 20th century. All of the relevant details that led to the first world war.

Yet he also draws on his first hand accounts of the Bosnian war of the 1990’s, describing in detail the devastation to man and country. The racism and the affiliations that led to the atrocities and the first ever time that the UN were forced to lead military strikes. The failures of command and one of the most amazing escapes you will ever read about when 13,000 people fled under the cover of darkness from the city of Srebrenica as the Serbian forces cut off the town and then advanced.

Princip was arrested as he shot and killed the Archduke and he was never a free man again, dying from tuberculosis in prison. Tim Butcher’s book leaves one big question. Has anything changed from the days when a young man took such desperate measures to bring solidarity to his people?

Gavrilo Princip, the man who was the TRIGGER of the first world war.

Mike Robbins

Aug 17, 2015

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I wasn’t especially interested in the subject of this book, Gavrilo Princip, to begin with; I read it because I had been impressed by one of Tim Butcher’s earlier books, Blood River, an exciting and well-written account of a long and dangerous journey through Central Africa. Like Blood River, The Trigger is a mixture of history, travelogue and journalism – a format Butcher does very well. It is just as good as Blood River, and I ended up being very interested in Princip indeed.

The outline of the

The outline of the book is thus: In the early 1990s Butcher is a young correspondent in the Balkans, covering the conflict for Britain’s Telegraph newspaper. In Sarajevo he finds people using a small building as a toilet, and is bemused to find that it is the mausoleum of Princip, whose assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the city led to the First World War. Butcher moves on but does not forget this odd sight, and in 2012 he resolves to walk across Bosnia and Serbia in Princip’s footsteps. Butcher wants to see if the journey would illuminate the chain of events that had led not only to that war but to the one he covered 80 years later.

In 1907 the 13-year-old Princip walked most of the way from his home in Western Bosnia to Sarajevo to get an education. Later, as a radicalised, political young adult, he went to Serbia and there hatched the plot to kill the Archduke; then, armed, he walked back. It is these journeys Butcher wants to recreate. He starts by enlisting Arnie, his former fixer from Bosnia, as a companion. Arnie, a Bosnian Muslim, is now living in London but, after some thought, he agrees. Meanwhile Butcher tries to track down Princip’s birthplace, Obljaj. This is hard, as it is an obscure hamlet deep in what Bosnians call the vukojebina (literally, “where the wolves fuck”). He eventually finds it on an old map in the bowels of the Royal Geographical Society. He and Arnie make for Obljaj.

It’s when they get there that this narrative, a little slow to start, really takes off. The Princip home is a ruin but, quite unexpectedly, they find the Princip clan still living next door. No-one can remember Gavrilo, who died in prison in 1918. But at least one man remembers his parents in their old age, and the folk-memories of Princip are strong. The next day Butcher and Arnie start a long walk to Sarajevo. The memories of the Princips, and Butcher’s own diligent research in Sarajevo, uncover a great deal new about the assassin. His killing of the Archduke is part of history but the man himself, locked up at 19, dead at 23, has always been a footnote. Butcher brings him very alive. He also conjures up a vivid picture of Sarajevo as Princip would have found it in 1907, and it reminds me very much of Aleppo, where I lived for several years in the 1990s.

Moreover Butcher finds that Princip’s story does provide keys to the region’s history, and to the conflict of the 1990s. One or two themes emerge strongly from the book. In Butcher’s view, Austria-Hungary, which had only occupied Bosnia in 1878, was a colonial power there, extracting resources – chiefly timber – and giving a little back, but not much. Princip’s fanaticism was rooted in a hatred of what he saw as an oppressive colonial regime that had kept his people miserably poor. (He was himself the seventh of nine children; the previous six had all died in infancy.) Moreover, according to Butcher, the people Princip saw as his were all the South Slavs, not just Serbs. He was thus not a Serbian nationalist as such (and in Butcher’s view, Serbia did not support the assassination). Instead, Butcher sees him as an anti-colonial freedom fighter. It is not a universal view of Princip, especially in modern Bosnia. But Butcher argues the case very well.

However, one of the most interesting perspectives in this book is Arnie’s. At the time people outside Yugoslavia blamed the 1990s war on ancient primitive hatreds, rather as they spoke of Northern Ireland when I was growing up, and see Syria now. Arnie doesn’t buy it. “Those people who said, ‘These people have always hated each other’ were just being lazy,” he tells Butcher. “In my own life I saw people from different communities work together, live together, get married even. There was nothing inevitable about what happened in the 1990s. It was just that a few – the extremists, the elite, the greedy – saw nationalism as a way to grab what they wanted.”

Like Blood River, this is a thoughtful, well-written book, an absorbing read but also full of insights. Butcher’s knack of combining several roles – the historian, the travel writer and the journalist – serves him well. I look forward to seeing where he does it next. Meanwhile The Trigger is excellent, and could well be my non-fiction read of the year.