Historian Margaret MacMillan charts daily events leading up to the First World War for BBC Radio 4

Posted on centenarynews.com on 27 June 2014
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On the eve of the centenary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination, BBC Radio 4 is launching a daily programme charting the road to war in 1914.

The stories and everyday concerns making the news in the final weeks of peace are told by the Oxford historian, Margaret MacMillan, in 1914: Day by Day

Professor MacMillan follows events as they unfolded a 100 years ago, from Archduke Franz Ferdinand's arrival and assassination in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, to the first week of the conflict.

Starting today (27th June 2014), each of the 43 programmes explores sources from the corresponding day in history to give a picture of the world as it was seen at the time.

An exhibition of works by leading modern cartoonists, inspired by stories from the programmes, runs alongside the series at the Cartoon Museum in London and can also be seen online.A Blank Cheque by Peter Brookes of The Times (© Peter Brookes/14-18 NOW)

Launching 1914: Day by Day, Margaret Macmillan said: "We wanted people at the end to have a sense of this really very humdrum world, with the usual sorts of tensions and worries that worlds have, which ended up in this catastrophic war by the 4th of August 1914."

Life went on as usual after the Archduke's assassination, she told an audience at the Cartoon Museum. Europe had weathered earlier crises in the Balkans. 

"In the summer of 1914, the overwhelming sense you get when you actually look at what people were doing and what the press were saying is that it won't matter."

In Britain, the concern was over the threat of civil war in Ireland, said Professor MacMillan, a great grand-daughter of the wartime Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.

 In France, the Finance Minister's wife, Madame Caillaux, was sensationally tried for killing the Editor of Le Figaro.


But the apparent calm was short-lived, as Margaret MacMillan reminded her audience: "Five weeks; that's what it took to get Europe from this relative state of peace into the war and we've tried as much we can to give an explanation of that."

For the programmes, she draws together newspaper accounts, diplomatic correspondence and private journals - from the telegrams between the Kaiser and the Tsar through to the diary entries of ordinary people.

Margaret MacMillan is Professor of International History at Oxford University. Her book The War that Ended Peace, published in 2014, traces the events which led to the First World War.

1914: Day by Day is broadcast in daily four-minute episodes on BBC Radio 4 at 4.55pm from 27th June 2014. 

1914: Day by Day Cartoons, is at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street London WC1A 2HH (near the British Museum). The featured cartoonists include Steve Bell, Peter Brookes, Posy Simmonds, Ralph Steadman and a rising talent, 13-year-old Zoom Rockman from London.

The exhibition has been commissioned as part of the 14-18 NOW cultural programme marking the First World War Centenary in the UK. The cartoons will also be available to view on the 14-18 NOW, BBC Radio 4 and Cartoon Museum websites.

Source: BBC Radio 4, 14-18 NOW

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News (Margaret MacMillan); A Blank Cheque © Peter Brookes/14-18 NOW

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News