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Who Killed Franz Ferdinand?

An 'Archduke' Resources Guide

#2413

(L-R) Ramiz Monsef, Josiah Bania, and Stephen Stocking in the World premiere of “Archduke” at the Mark Taper Forum.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Rajiv Joseph’s World premiere Archduke, onstage at the Mark Taper Forum through June 4, 2017, is based on the event credited for launching World War I—the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While The Great War has been endlessly studied and written about, the young Serbian men behind the assassination are largely a mystery. Archduke fictionalizes their lives, humanizing characters often left behind by history. Below are a list of resources that further explore the historical context of the play and help make sense of one of the world’s most confusing wars.

For Readers (Long Form)

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
If we were to recommend only one resource, it would be this book, which both Joseph and director Giovanna Sardelli read carefully while preparing for Archduke.The Sleepwalkers is the best book I’ve read in doing research for the play. It’s the single source I’ve looked at the closest besides conversations and research in Sarajevo and Belgrade, said Joseph.
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The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book is one of the preeminent resources on World War I. Not only is it revered for its historical prowess but for its attention to detail and to characters. Fans have described it as reading like a work of fiction—high praise for a 600-plus-page historical tome.
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For Readers (Short Form)

The Lie That Started the First World War
Tim Butcher, author of The Trigger—Hunting the Assassin who Brought the World to War, spent three years researching Gavrilo Princip in an attempt to separate fact from fiction about one of history’s most important assassins. This article by Butcher in the Telegraph provides fascinating small details about Princip, like his family lineage, his grades in primary school, and his jail sentence. Butcher also aims to dispel the myth that Princip’s assassination plan was the work of the Serbian government.
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The Man Who Started WWI: 7 Things You Didn’t Know
Butcher also wrote this story for CNN.com on the hundred-year anniversary of the assassination. This quick read is particularly helpful in understanding the ethnic and nationalist roots of Austro-Hungarian and Serbian hostility.
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For Listeners

Broadcasting Live from 1914—Radiolab
This fun, old-timey broadcast is primarily dedicated to stories from 1914, whether it be Charlie Chaplin’s debut of the Tramp or the invention of the first animated character, Gertie the dinosaur. Skip to 41:50 to hear writer Aleksandar Hermon dramatize the assassination.
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The Assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—BBC
The BBC World Service presented this recollection of the day of the assassination to commemorate its 100th anniversary. The broadcast is detailed yet concise and utilizes actors to retell first-hand accounts of that fateful day.
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For Watchers

The Great War—PBS
PBS’s two hour documentary about World War I was described as detailed and entertaining by The New York Times and enormously absorbing by The Wall Street Journal. We think any war documentary that is both engaging and shorter than six hours must be worth its salt. As PBS puts it: Drawing on unpublished diaries, memories and letters, The Great War tells the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and the American troops.
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A Shot that Changed the World
If you are looking for a quick, visually engaging lowdown on the assassination, this video from the YouTube channel The Great War is exactly what you need. It gives background information of the Archduke himself, something we have found to be missing in many other short-form resources.
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