Learning About Secession and Assassination Through Discrepant Event Inquiries: Part Two

Lesson Launch Blog

By Dr. Paul E. Binford

Past President, Mississippi Council for the Social Studies

This is the second of a two-part blog post on an engaging and flexible social studies teaching strategy known as the Discrepant Event Inquiry.

Part Two: Assassination

Volume 1 of this Historical Classic (1928)

Volume 1 of this Historical Classic (1928)

World History is arguably the most daunting survey course that secondary social studies teachers undertake with Economics a close second. World History’s complexity is illustrated by the series of events that sparked the Great War (or World War I). It is a tangled web of alliances, grievances, missteps, and miscalculations leading to a world-wide conflagration. In his classic study, The Origins of the World War, author Sidney Bradshaw Fay required two volumes and 569 pages to unravel the causes of the conflict.

How can teachers encourage students to untangle the circumstances that led to a world-wide conflagration?

First, ironically, turn and face it!

Recognize a survey course, at the secondary level, largely involves formative student learning—they are creating a mental infrastructure. It may take years for them to consolidate this learning into a permanent framework. Moreover, highly skilled teachers find something about this or any other historical event that is relevant, riveting, or arresting, so their students are intrinsically motivated to continue this cognitive construction project, perhaps completing it months or years later. This brings us to a tragic assassination (i.e., murder by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons), which by its very circumstance is compelling!

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Family (Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Family (Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

By 1914, political assassinations had become almost commonplace. Since the turn of the twentieth century, the intended victims of these assassination attempts included:


1-Crown Prince

1-Russian Grand Duke



6-Prime Ministers (p. 169)

In late June of 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, were nearing the end of an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina. This territory had only recently (1908) been annexed by Austria-Hungary and the Russians and their client state, Serbia, were still seething. The state visit was to conclude with events in Sarajevo, Bosnia’s largest city, including a stop at the Town Hall. However, the city was also teaming with members of Young Bosnia, a nationalist group supported covertly by the Serbian government. They were intent on assassinating the Archduke, a moderate reformer who might undermine the appeal of groups, such as Young Bosnia, with more radical solutions in mind.

On Sunday morning, June 28, 1914, the official (seven-car) motorcade drove down the Appel Quay toward Town Hall. The Archduke sat with his wife in the third vehicle with its hood pulled back—it was effectively an open car. A detailed itinerary of his visit had been published days in advance, ostensibly to promote a warm welcome, but this was used to full advantage by seven assassins who lined both sides of the street. Most of these would be assailants were equipped with a bomb, a revolver, and cyanide (pp. 172-174).

The motorcade traveling at approximately 10 mph passed the first two assassins, who lost their nerve, but the third man, Čabrinović, did not. He threw his bomb at the car occupied by Ferdinand and his wife, which fortuitously landed on the folded back hood and fell to the street. A few seconds later it exploded injuring two occupants in the car trailing the Archduke’s vehicle. Čabrinović, whose suicide attempt failed, was arrested and four of the remaining six assassins fled. Only two remained including a 19-year old student named Gavrilo Princip, who knowing the Archdukes’ scheduled return route, positioned himself at the corner of Appel Quay and the Franz Joseph Strasse where the motorcade would be making a slow right-hand turn toward the museum (pp. 174-176).

Eventually, the remainder of the motorcade proceeded to the Town Hall, as scheduled, and the ceremonies continued as planned. After some discussion, one change was made to the Archduke’s itinerary, he would visit the military hospital, first (where those injured in the bomb attack had been taken for treatment) and, then, proceed to the museum (pp. 177-178).

Regrettably, this change was not clearly communicated to Ferdinand’s chauffeur. As the motorcade proceeded along the Appel Quay, it was to continue on this street going directly to the hospital. When the chauffeur unwittingly turned right on Franz Joseph Strasse, another occupant in the car told him to get back on the Appel Quay. To do so, the driver had to stop the car and put it in reverse. As the car was brought to a stop, Princip stood just five feet from the motionless vehicle. He raised his revolver and fired two shots; the first bullet struck Sophie in the stomach and the second bullet severed her husband’s jugular vein. Both were mortally wounded and expired within minutes (pp. 178-180).


So at the outset of a unit on World War I, here is a Discrepant Event Inquiry or DEI presentation (for a more detailed description of the DEI strategy please see part one of this blog post) that will foster a deeper understanding of this tragic assassination and its far-reaching consequences:

Slide One:

Rules for the Discrepant Event Inquiry:

  1. Raise your hand to be recognized.

  2. Ask a single question about the DEI that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” 

  3. Listen carefully to other student questions and teacher answers; they will help you solve the puzzle (or guiding question).

  4. When you believe you have arrived at the best answer to the guiding question, announce you have a “final answer,” after being called upon. Present your final answer along with reasoning or evidence that led you to this answer.

  5. You are competing with the other class periods, so this DEI will be timed. The class period that solves the DEI in the shortest amount of time wins!

Slide Two:

Assassination Route.jpg

Which major event in World History does this map illustrate?

Slide Three:

The answer to the DEI is:

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie

June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo

Slide Four:


  1. What are some pieces of evidence from the map that point to this assassination?

    • Kaiser bridge

    • Franz Joseph St.

  2. What do the dots on the map represent?

    • The location of the seven assassins.

    • Gavrilo Princip occupied position #6 as the motorcade made its way to Town Hall; he took position #7 after the failed bombing attack.

  3. What do the bolded lines on the streets indicate?

    • The longer bolded lines illustrate the planned motorcade route.

    • The bold segmented line illustrates the change of route, which was not clearly communicated to the chauffeur with shocking consequences.

  4. What were the “unexpected turns”?

    • The explosive device actually struck the Archduke’s vehicle, but instead of detonating the bomb bounced onto the street before exploding moments later injuring two others in the motorcade, but not its intended victim.

    • Princip and Čabrinović, ingested cyanide following their attacks, but survived.

    • Princip and Čabrinović were both tried and convicted, but, surprisingly, as minors (under age 20) they were sparred execution. Instead, they were given the maximum sentence permissible under the law—20 years. Both men died of tuberculosis during their confinement.

    • The chauffeur’s unexpected turn onto the Franz Joseph Strasse that placed Franz Ferdinand and his wife in harm’s way.

    • Obviously, the assassination itself was unexpected, and it robbed Austria-Hungary of an heir to the throne. This was all the more cataclysmic given the age (84) and fragility of the reigning emperor, Franz Joseph.

    • The assassination served as a pre-text for Austria-Hungary to send a list of ultimatums to Serbia. This ultimately led to a declaration of war several weeks later.

    • The Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia and the mobilization of troops soon triggered a response from Russia and an unsuspecting Europe—and the world at large— was soon embroiled in the Great War.

A final note about content: The Archduke and the Assassin, by Lavender Cassel, is a lucid account of the events leading up to and including that fateful day in Sarajevo. The page numbers noted parenthetically above are from this monograph.

The DEI: Assassination can be downloaded here. The RingofTruth welcomes your comments and/or experiences with this DEI or others you have created or attempted!

For more information about this Lesson Launch blog post, or if you are interested in arranging professional development or a speaking engagement, please contact the author at: theringoftruth@outlook.com.