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The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,031 ratings  ·  210 reviews
On a summer morning in Sarajevo almost a hundred years ago, a teenager took a pistol out of his pocket and fired not just the opening rounds of the First World War but the starting gun for modern history. By killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Gavrilo Princip, started a cycle of events that would leave 15 million dead from fighting be ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Grove Press (first published May 21st 2014)
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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,031 ratings  ·  210 reviews

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May 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
"The driver's decision to turn into Franz Joseph Street and not continue down the Appel Quay, as had been decided back at the town hall, was a stroke of assassin's luck for [Gavrilo] Princip. When General Potiorek spotted what was happening he shouted at the driver, ordering him immediately to stop and reverse back out onto the Appel Quay. Instead of his target speeding past, Princip saw the Archduke [Franz Ferdinand] slow right in front of him only a few feet away - the gallant count, so willin ...more
Mike Robbins
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1990s, memoirs, travel
I wasn’t especially interested in the subject of this book, Gavrilo Princip, to begin with; I read it because I had been impressed by one of Tim Butcher’s earlier books, Blood River, an exciting and well-written account of a long and dangerous journey through Central Africa. Like Blood River, The Trigger is a mixture of history, travelogue and journalism – a format Butcher does very well. It is just as good as Blood River, and I ended up being very interested in Princip indeed.

The outline of the
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled, “The Hunt for Gavrilo Princip; The Assassin who Brought the World to War,” this is part biography, part history and part travel book. Indeed, it is written by Tim Butcher, who is probably best known for his travel writing and whose interest in Gavrilo Princip was first aroused when he was a young reporter in Serajevo during the Bosnian War in the 1990’s. He recalls how he witnessed locals using a stone building as a makeshift lavatory, only to discover they were desecrating a memorial ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi
Born in a village on the remote western edge of Bosnia, Princip had undergone a process of radicalization at the schools he attended across the region, a journey that culminated in the assassination in Sarajevo

Eventually the author Tim Butcher gets around to telling us the story of Gavril Princip and the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June 28th 1914 in Sarajevo. This event was the seminal trigger that set in motion World War I just a month later.

To be
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A concise, compelling, accessible book that is part history, part travelogue, part memoir and wholly unmissable

A fascinating investigation into the life and times of Gavrilo Princip, the Serbian student who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, and which was the catalyst for World War One.

This concise, accessible, compelling book is part history, part travelogue, and part memoir, which explains the history of the Balkans and why, despite his momentous action, Princip is now
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
An excellent multi layered history/travelogue/personal story tracing the journey of Gavrilo Princip from remote Bosnian village to initiator of World War 1.

Tim Butcher brings alive the story of Gavrilo Princip by physically following the young Bosnian Serb's journey from his remote village to the streets of Sarajevo. The author paints a fascinating story as he visits the remote hamlet where Princip grew up to discover still living descendants, takes on epic treks through the now land mine infest
Scintillating biography of the man who changed the world.

By firing that bullet into the jugular of the Habsburg heir on that sunny morning in Sarajevo in June 1914, Gavrilo Princip not only killed off the old world, he also unwittingly helped to usher in the modern age - the toxic 20th century with its legacy of revolution, fascism, genocide and totalitarian terror.

Tim Butcher is the perfect medium for the telling of this extraordinary tale. Having spent years in the bloody cauldron of the Bos
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Find this and other reviews at: http://historicalfictionreader.blogsp...

My addiction to the final chapters of Hapsburg rule in Austria is well-known and thoroughly documented so it should come as no surprise that I jumped when my father gifted me a copy of The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand is easily the most recognizable moment of the era I study, but until now my understanding of that story has been entirely one-s
Mikey B.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Really not for me. I felt deceived by the title which suggests an examination of the life of Gavrilo Princip who assassinated Arch-duke Ferdinand leading to the outbreak of the First World War. I also expected some discussion of Serbian nationalism. There is some of that in this book - but in the main it is a travelogue of the author in the former Yugoslavia which I was not that interested in. Much of this was focused on personal experiences of the author.

I have read Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas o
Catherine Boardman

Gavrillo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 and in doing so triggered the First World War. That much I and most of the rest of us know. What drove Princip to pull the trigger; there I'm a little hazier, what happened to him next and did he achieve his ultimate goal; there I knew nothing. Tim Butcher draws on his experience as a journalist covering the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990's to join the dots between the motivations of Princip at the start of the 20th century and those o
Steven Z.
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the past few years numerous books have been published dealing with aspects of the First World War. The plethora of books is due to the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that touched off events that resulted in the “war to end all wars.” Tim Butcher’s THE TRIGGER is part of slew of new publications, but it is not a traditional discussion of the causes of the war and who was most responsible for the debacle ...more
The author draws on his experience in covering the Bosnian war in the 1990's to add perspective to the story of Gavrilo Princip, the assassin who tripped the switch that started World War I.

The journey begins in Obljaj, which is a Bosnian settlement (hardly a town) where the Princip clan lives today as it did when its wayward teenager changed the course of history. The author, Tim Butcher, is welcomed by this very poor rural family who share their handed down reminiscences. Then, Butcher follows
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tim Butcher never fails to impress me for his sheer determination in presenting well known facts in a totally fresh perspective. Sitting here in Trieste - quoted in the book as being one of the two ends of the Iron curtain - I followed his footsteps along his journey across Bosnia and Serbia as though I was actually there with him, his travelogue being all the more relevant to me as it describes regions just a few hundred kilometres from here. Princip's life, his political evolution and his moti ...more
A fascinating read that both fed my appetite for information about WWI and whetted it for information about two countries I knew almost nothing about and the impact they've had on recent history. I was a little thrown at first by the personal nature of what I had initially pegged to be a straight biography of Gavrilo Princip, but once it got going, I was hooked. Part travelogue, part war history, and part biography of both the author and the subject, it's like no history book I've read before. T ...more
Apratim Mukherjee
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a book which has two stories (Princip's journey and the author's journey)being told simultaneously while a third story (the author's time in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war in 1990s) acts as a filler.Since the author didn't travel a conflict zone like his previous two books,you may not enjoy the slow pace (for which I am docking a star) with lots of history.But this book tells about one serious attempt to find out "who was Gavrilo Princip?".There is a lot of material in the book which ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, impeccably researched, and beautifully written account of Gavrilo Princip. By retracing his journey from a small, impoverished village in Bosnia to a street in Sarajevo where he shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Butcher manages to recreate not only the man but the broader history that enabled two world wars and the bloody conflict in Bosnia. It is a far reaching and unflinching look at the instincts--noble and base--that drive our species.
Martin Budd
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saved this book to read during the week of my 60th birthday as I have so enjoyed the authors previous writing and I wanted a really good read to mark the week. I was not disappointed. It is an outstanding achievement to visit a theme so comprehensively covered by generations of other writers and discover new insights, new revelations and illuminate a subject in a way previously unknown. The book is a perfect balance of current affairs, history, travel, biography and autobiography that makes fo ...more
Neil Fox
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, James Earl Ray, Nathuram Godse (God bless you Google for that last one !) all assassinated great leaders in their prime - JFK, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Gandhi - leaders who could have gone on to even greater achievements had they lived, and whose premature deaths still pose some of the great " what if's" of history. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was no such comparable leader when he and his wife Sophie were murdered by ...more
This book is different from what I expected. The title makes it sound like it's about a hunt for Franz Ferdinand's assassin. (He was captured immediately; there was no need for a "hunt" like there was for John Wilkes Booth.) The "hunt" is figurative, not literal. The author follows the path that Gavrilo Princip took in his life from his birthplace, ultimately to Sarajevo to shoot Franz Ferdinand. So the book is very much a travelogue, with the author providing details on Princip's life, correcti ...more
Alison Power
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yet another excellent book by Tim Butcher. This time the author treks through the Balkans on the trail of the assassin who's fatal shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the trigger for a political disaster waiting to happen and precipitated WW1 and ultimately all the further horrors on WW2.

I must admit to always feeling rather foolish not understanding the more recent Balkan conflict which claimed, among many lives, the army officer husband of a friend of mine who was killed before his baby d
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love a book which is highly readable but from which you learn new things. I learned so much from this book about Bosnia, the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, Sarajevo's history, and about the build up to WW1 - all of which I was very vague on before. Very worthwhile reading.
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

World War One started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The story of the assassin, Gavrilo Princip, is often summed up in a few lines, or less. Tim Butcher redresses this imbalance by exploring the journey of Gavrilo in a book that is part biography, part history and part travelogue. And he shows how Gavrilo’s vision for Bosnia was arrived at and destroyed.

The story starts with Butcher examining the tomb of Gavrilo in Sarajevo during the Bos
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Tim Butcher may have been a journalist, but what he really wanted to be was a historian. You can see it in his preparation, interests, and research (including the use of social history to fill out his knowledge), which he deftly melds with travel reporting and memoir as he explores the life and impact of Gavro Princip, whose assassination of Franz Ferdinand helped usher the world into war, and future reverberations that tore Yugoslavia apart, led to thousands of civilian deaths perpetrated by ne ...more
Shaun McCarthy
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Trigger is a fascinating account of the lead up to WWI.

It reveals the complexities of the Balkans and the internecine strife between the various religious factions at that time, and sets the scene for the latter troubles in the Bosnian war in the 80's.

If you want an understanding of the region, this is a must read.
Niall Pelota
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting book and some great detective work to narrow down princip and his relatives.
Author Tim Butcher's books might best be described as a mixture of travelogue, history and politics. He has also developed a theme of following the footsteps of past journeys undertaken by historical figures. In the remarkable "Blood River" he followed Henry Morton Stanley through the Congo whilst in "Chasing the Devil" it was Graham Greene through Sierra Leone and Liberia. In "The Trigger" he is on the trail of Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary ...more
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I am not ordinarily interested in historical books, I found that this book proved to be a key explanation for the Archduke's assassination and how its misinterpretation started off WWI. Similarly to the way 9-11, an attack carried out by Saudis, caused the United States to attack Afghanistan, so Princip's dream of a pan-Slavian nation was falsely attributed to Serbian nationalism, and it led to countries facing off against each other for reasons other than the assassination (reasons, ho ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Boy, did this book surprise me. A surprise recommendation from my son who normally eschews non-fiction history, I eagerly started reading this, thinking I was going to learn some new insights into Gavrilo Princip and the origins of World War I. I actually didn't think I would learn much at all as I had recently read Hasting's "Road to Catastrophe" which covered the topic in quite some depth.

The book is not at all a straight non-fiction history and this became apparent in the first few chapters w
Caroline Mcphail-Lambert
Awesome read!

Reads more like a novel than a history book!

"To the south oozed a great lozenge of pastureland, a magnificent plain veined by watercourses and picketed tightly on all side by foothills of high mountains. Somewhere over the peaks lay the Mediterranean, cities, motorways, industry and the broadband rush of the twenty-first century. But where we were standing seemed to belong to a rawer, older world order, a place of hard-scrabble rural living" (pg 41)

Butcher travels the route Gavril
Author dug around in WWI histories and could find next to nothing on Gavrilo Princip the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand which started WWI, so he decided to find out what he could about him by tracking GPs movements in Bosnia before the act. This is part history part travelogue. Butcher hikes cross country, crosses Tent Mountain and bumps into a host of colourful folk. He also spends some time detailing Tito and the partisans as well as the miseries suffered by Bosnian Moslems in t ...more
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Bright Young Things: October 2015- The Trigger by Tim Butcher 35 21 Aug 22, 2016 05:00PM  
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Tim Butcher is a best-selling British author, journalist and broadcaster. Born in 1967, he was on the staff of The Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009, covering conflicts across the Balkans, Middle East and Africa. Recognised in 2010 with an honorary doctorate for services to writing and awarded the Mungo Park Medal for exploration by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, he is based with his fam ...more
“As my history teachers drilled into me, the First World War provided the preconditions for the Second World War and thereby the tension of the Cold War. The war of 1914–18 was Ground Zero for modern history, the end of an old order that had held sway for hundreds of years, the fiery forging of a new world.” 3 likes
“The statesmen leaving the Berlin Congress smugly convinced themselves that the people of Bosnia would benefit from the diplomatic finesse of having the Western Austro-Hungarians replace the Eastern Ottomans. What they had actually done, however, was quite the opposite, sowing seeds of resentment that would eventually destroy the status quo of the entire Western world.” 3 likes
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