For over a century, scholars, politicians, and pundits have debated the supposed causes of the First World War, from German naval provocations to the rising global tide of nationalism. All of these explanations tend to ignore the simple fact that the war began in eastern Europe, triggered by regional feuding and violence in what had previously been the Ottoman provinces. In this series we explore the people, places and pressures that led to the great conflagration, from both inside and outside Ottoman territory, and trace each nation’s history to paint an evermore intricate picture of the powder keg of Europe waiting for the spark.
Dr. Sam is making installments in this series throughout 2023, with 4 episodes available now to everyone and 1 that is available to patrons only, and more are on the way.
Origins of the First World War pt. 1 –
The Ottoman Empire
We begin our exploration of the roots of World War I by following the struggles of the declining Ottoman Empire to hold its ground and contain ethnic and religious strife as Western powers circle like vultures around the so-called “sick man of Europe.”
Origins of the First World War pt. 2 –
We consider the history and explosive politics of the often-forgotten Eastern European nation that set the events of the First World War in motion: Serbia.
We examine the country’s emergence and brief flowering as an Eastern Orthodox kingdom in the high Middle Ages, its fall to the Ottoman advance, its many years of quiet resistance in religion and song, its re-emergence amidst the Napoleonic wars and the Ottoman breakdown, and finally, its long-frustrated quest to fulfill its purported destiny of reunifying the Southern Slavs, which led a militant and conspiratorial secret society to murder their own country’s king and to smuggle teenage assassins across the border to kill their rivals’ crown prince.
Origins of the First World War pt. 3 –
At the height of their power in the Baroque Age, the Habsburgs aspired to rule the entire world; by the end of the ninetheenth century, they strove merely to maintain control over the volatile lands of the upper Danube valley. We trace how the Habsburgs’ domains evolved from a messy collection of local duchies into an absolutist empire, and finally into a complex military-industrian state, the home of artistic modernism, which was nonetheless threatened with destruction by a welter of nationalist movements and by the rising power of Serbia and Russia.
Origins of the First World War pt. 4 –
Bosnia & the Assassination
We examine the unique and complex history of Bosnia, at once a borderland and a world unto itself, and the only Slavic country in which Islam has ever been the majority faith. With the help of readings from the classic novel, “The Bridge on the Drina,” we trace how Bosnians’ confused search for a national identity and a national destiny led ultimately to the fateful assassination that triggered a world war…
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website
Origins of the First World War pt. 5 –
We examine the geography and history of Russia, from the origins of the Kievan Rus in the Early Middle Ages, to the tumultuous time of industrialization, emancipation, and radical subversion at the start of the Twentieth Century. We try reconstruct the circumstances and mindsets that led the Russian state to back up their allies in Serbia, in order to maintain their tenuous foothold in the Balkans and their pretenses of leading and protecting the Slavic world.
With more episodes planned through the summer and fall of 2023!