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Final Report Summary - 28 JUNE 1914 (28 June 1914: A Day in European History and Memory)

Studies of the Sarajevo assassination typically focus on one issue: who was behind the conspiracy to murder the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand; and, specifically, was the Serbian government complicit? Yet as the historian Lawrence Lafore wrote: “The learned and interminable investigations of the plot…have high interest, but it is the interest of a tragic drama or a detective story. The real facts did not at the time matter much…” That’s because the leaders of Austria-Hungary decided upon war against Serbia within days of the assassination, despite the lack of evidence of the regime’s direct involvement. And since that hoped-for localized war became the First World War—“the great seminal catastrophe of [the twentieth] century”2 —Sarajevo came to epitomize what the historian Pierre Nora calls a “founding” or “spectacular” event, one “on which posterity retrospectively confers the greatness of origins, the solemnity of inaugural ruptures.” Accordingly, the political murder itself, just as the physical space in which it transpired, constitutes a “lieu de mémoire,” a site of memory on which to explore how this tragic past has been re-read, re-used and, even, re-imagined through different time periods and in diverse political, cultural, and social contexts.
This is the original aspect of my work—to illuminate and interrogate the manifold ways the assassination has been conjured and construed since it first entered human consciousness as an event of world historical significance. The project culminates in a broad-based book entitled 28 June 1914: A Day in History and Memory. I completed several chapters of this work during the Marie Curie fellowship, and will publish them for the 2014 centenary (thus I cannot yet specify all these articles under Template A—List of Scientific Publications). They are: “Yugoslav Eulogies” (examines the assassination’s memory in the two Yugoslavias and former Yugoslavia, 1918 to today); “Forgetting Franz Ferdinand” (memory of the Archduke in Austria, 1914 to the present); and “Mental Lapses: The Sandwich that Sabotaged Civilization” (critically examines the inaccuracies, mythologies, and clichés used to evoke Sarajevo, and was the basis for my podcast for Oxford University’s series “New Perspectives on the First World War”). Other chapters explore themes including the varying ways the assassination has been narrated (“History Unleashed”); the historiography of the culpability question (“Writing History: Whodunit, and Why?”); the assassination in film, art, and literature, including literary and scholarly counterfactual accounts (“Manifest Memory: Re-composing the Past”); and the politicization of Sarajevo via, for instance, analogies to contemporary terrorism (“Past Experience”).

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