As I imagine you all know, the First World War began one-hundred years ago when Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. During the years of the war, nineteen million soldiers died. 19,000,000. Nineteen million.
What we don’t realize is the inciting incident of the war to end all wars happened due to chance and bad communication. Several nationalists had planned to assassinate the Archduke that morning but following a plan riddled with mistakes, didn’t get closer than one grenade that missed the car of the Archduke and his wife. Later in the morning and after that initial incident, the driver of the Archduke’s car took a wrong turn because no one had told him the route had been changed. The car stalled only a few feet from where Princip stood. He took out a gun and shot both the Archduke and his wife from five feet away.
Would history have changed if the driver had been given the correct information or if Princip hadn’t been released by the police? Probably not because nations determined to go to war will find a context. Remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? Weapons of mass destruction? However, the spark probably would come at a different time and a different place.
My challenge for you: think of a moment in history that could have gone one way or another if one tiny event had changed. What if Columbus had headed north? Or if President Lincoln had had better security or gone to bed early? I’d love for you to share that.