28 June marked the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – the event that set in train the outbreak of the First World War.
Of course the causes of the war were much more complicated than one violent act. Last week we hosted an event at the Residence where British historian Andrew Oldfield gave us a fascinating insight into the political, economic and cultural conditions which led to war.
The consequences are still with us, as I noted in my talk; if post-war Europe was a “landscape with ruins”, as one historian noted, the Middle East today remains a landscape with fault lines, some of them dating from the aftermaths of the First and Second World Wars.
So remembering our history and understanding its lessons, I argued, is crucial to effective diplomacy. That’s why the British government has invested in a range of events to mark the centenary of the Great War.
On 28 June the Foreign Secretary launched a series of WWI Podcasts based on original Foreign Office dispatches from the 28 June assassination to Britain entering the War on 4 August (the so called “July Crisis?”). In the interviews, the Foreign Secretary and former British Ambassadors to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia and Serbia help set the context for what was unfolding in Europe and describe what it must have been like for their predecessors during that period. ?The podcasts are available at https://audioboo.fm/playlists/1256851-fco-first-world-war-podcasts.
In another digital project to mark the July Crisis, FCO Historians will tweet, in real time, extracts from Foreign Office telegrams, dispatches and letters leading up to the outbreak of WWI. Eleven twitter accounts have been set up reflecting the key British diplomatic figures from 1914. They will tweet from their respective accounts and be re-tweeted from a central FCO account: @WWIFO. You can sign-up and follow the tweets as they come in real-time 100 years to the day. A blog has also been posted on the History of Government website on Gov.UK to provide the context and background.
UN Security Council
Finally, commemoration of WWI will be a major theme of the UK’s Presidency of the Security Council in August. The UK will co-lead with Australia a Security Council visit to Belgium on 9-10 August. The Council will hold a session on conflict prevention with academics, visit a multinational war cemetery and attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gates. During our Presidency we shall also host an exhibition of WWI poetry in the UN Secretariat building which will feature poems from different countries.