When Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip fatally shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, the assassination is seen as the event that ushered in the First World War. Within a month, the Great Powers of Europe would become embroiled in a four-year war owing to a web of alliances and treaties: Russia, France, Britain on the one hand; Germany, Italy, and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires on the other. The US would eventually enter the maelstrom in April 1917 on the side of Britain and the Entente allies against the Central Powers.
The eventual death toll was between 10 and 16 million, making it one of the biggest cataclysms in human history. The war was, of course, not the consequence of a mere single act on that fateful day in Sarajevo. It was the culmination over many years of diplomatic and political skirmishing stemming from economic rivalry between the European capitalist powers. Although some later historians dispute the role of economics as the determinant, it is hard not to conclude as many others have done that the First World War was the classic outcome of imperialist rivalry.
In particular, the then top European power Britain had long seen the rising star of Germany as its nemesis for the control of markets and resources. For its part, the newly formed German Empire arising from the unification of Prussia in 1871 felt that its economic development was being unfairly thwarted by London.
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