Book Talk: Retracing the steps of the Great War's 'Trigger'

Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:18am EDT
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By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - In June 1914, a Bosnian Serb teenager named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, setting in motion a train of events that led to the start of World War One.

Cape Town-based author and adventurer Tim Butcher retraces Princip's steps in his just-published book "The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War."

Starting from Princip's remote home village in present-day Bosnia, Butcher hiked through rugged wolf and bear country and even managed to pursue some trout in his quest to unlock the assassin's secrets.

Along the way, he enjoyed central European peasant hospitality and found previously unknown school reports for Princip in obscure archives where historians had failed to peer.

Butcher argues that Princip was not the Serbian nationalist he has been portrayed as, but a patriot striving for a greater Yugoslavia.

His journey ended in Sarajevo, where Princip fired the shots that changed the course of 20th century history.

Butcher, who covered the Balkan conflicts as a reporter in the 1990s for the Daily Telegraph and has previously written two adventure travel books set in Africa, spoke to Reuters by phone about his new work and his historical quarry.


A man takes pictures as he is reflected in poster with of Gavrilo Princip before a ceremony in East Sarajevo, June 27, 2014.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic