The 1908 Prelude to the World War

Bulgarian soldiers in a trench, preparing to fire against an incoming airplane during WWI.

BRITISH DOCUMENTS ON THE ORIGINS OF THE WAR, 1898-1914. Vol. V, "The Near East: The Macedonian Problem and the Annexation of Bosnia, 1903-1909." EDITED BY G. P. GOOCH AND HAROLD TEMPERLEY. London: H. M. Stationery Office (New York: British Library of Information), 1928, pp. 886.

IN the winter of 1908-1909 Europe quivered in fear of a general war. It was barely a year after the Triple Entente had been completed by the agreement between England and Russia, and hardly two months since the Young Turk Revolution had upset the traditional alignment of the Powers in the Near East. These two factors -- the grouping of the Powers and their rival interests in the Near East -- supplied the setting for the crisis. The trouble arose from the precipitate action of the Austro-Hungarian Government in proclaiming the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, two provinces of the Ottoman Empire which had been occupied by the Dual Monarchy under a mandate from the Powers since the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Yet the conflict that threatened was not one between Austria and Turkey, but between Austria and Serbia; for Serbia herself had designs on these two Slav provinces. In other words, the so-called Bosnian annexation crisis of 1908-1909 had obvious points of similarity with the July crisis of 1914. It may, in fact, be aptly described as the prelude to the World War, for it raised issues which were not again to come to rest. In both cases there was the same Austro-Serbian tension, the same threat of intervention on the part of other Powers, the same division of Europe into two opposing groups. The question naturally arises why war was avoided in 1909 but not in 1914. An examination of the events of the earlier crisis in the light of the voluminous material that has now been made available will illuminate the more remote origins of the World War and at the same time clarify the course of developments in the crucial months of 1914.

Bismarck had established the ascendancy

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