World War I: The Seminal Tragedy – Lies – Extra History


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The search for truth in history is always a matter of blazing a path through multiple sources, each with a different perspective. We hope this series about the events that lead to World War I not only taught you new things, but encouraged you to ask new questions. Our writer, James Portnow, sits down to talk about what he learned from researching and writing this series – as well as the mistakes we made along the way. Did the world really hinge on Gavrilo Princip’s sandwich? How do we know so much about Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov’s day? We answer these questions and more, but above all, we encourage you to do more research on your own!

Want to learn more about World War I? James recommends some books to get you started!

If you’re super hardcore about these things:
The Origins of the War of 1914:

If you’re looking for something more pop:
Guns of August:

Get the music from this episode!

Get the intro music here!
*Music by Demetori:

Get the outro music here!
The Land of Vana’diel (Album):

We also recommend these episodes!

Extra History – World War I: The Seminal Tragedy
Chapter 1: The Concert of Europe:

Extra Credits – Why Mechanics Must Be Both Good and Accurate
Historical Games:


28 Responses

  1. dgmisal1979 says:

    this is what makes me use this vids in my history classes… well played.

  2. Pavle Panic says:

    The thing about the ""emperor tzar"" thing haha is that every head of state after Ivan the III was ""The Tzar of all the Russians"", you have this in Serbian culture as well.

  3. kn1ghtpr1nce says:

    The sandwich is a lie

  4. Perhaps a logical follow up to this is how America got into the War, because it's more complicated then people realize, simply comparing the Lusitania ro Pearl Harbor is a gross over simplification.

    However Japan's role in WWI is greatly overlooked.

  5. EmethMatthew says:

    Love it when people/organizations have the balls to admit and fix stuff they screwed up! Thanks for these corrections!

  6. Narutokun11 says:

    This correctional video, and your work for this channel are ALMOST as awesome and beautiful as you're goatee and hair. Thought I need to tell you that I appreciate the fine groomsman-ship exercised. Capital job good sir.

  7. Please do the Versailles series and a napoleonic wars one too.

  8. yoiu says:

    Maximum sentence in Norway is 21 years, no matter the crime.
    Anders Bering Breivik, for example, killed 78 people, majority of them, teens, and he got 21 years (half truth tho, since he will never be a free man)
    I love Norway

  9. Man, the motor of history really is human stupidity…

  10. I learned that history is more grey than 7th grade's more black and white outlook

  11. mankytoes says:

    One thing I would emphasise is the difference WW1 made to the average person's view of war. In Britain, wars generally hadn't led to huge numbers of dead, regular people. They usually worked well for us, a small number of our soliders fought, won, and we were better for it. The whole idea of "going to war" didn't have such a negative, fearful implications, as it does now.

  12. Molly O'Kami says:

    "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, contrary to what you've just seen, war is neither glamorous nor fun. There are no winners. Only losers. There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: The American Revolution, World War II, and the Star Wars trilogy. If you'd like to learn more about war, there's lots of books in your local library–many of them with cool, gory pictures. Well, good night, everybody. Peace, man." – Bart Simpson

  13. Gilhelmi says:

    The world has changed so much since then. It is crazy how short of time.

    Only 100 years ago, the fires were burning and would still burn for 3 more years.

  14. Alecxace says:

    No you got the name wrong again. Petrograd was thename used for the Capital

  15. Ptolemy says:

    OOh Willy and Nicky were cousins with George V of England(Georgie)!!! So the three cousins were fighting in one of the greatest war ever. O my god…I cant believe that!!!! OOh and Queen Victoria was Kaiser's "darling grandmamma" as he called her? I am not sure… keep doing this guys!!!! You 're great!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Little Late to the party on this, but it could be possible that any pictures of Nicholas II not in the official Imperial Robes could be King George V of Great Britain, as the two looked very similar

  17. Mike Vides says:

    Is that San d'Orian music there in the background?


  18. Anybody else love to listen to a conversation between this gentleman and Dan Carlin?

  19. TheCyfear says:

    Yaaay, James!!! 😀

  20. As a Ukrainian, I want to say that "Tzar" (Царь) can be translated into "king". Cause that's all ut us really

  21. Tamaki742 says:

    He said "Sopher", his nickname for her, instead of "Sophie", actually. Also in the end, I think the saying is true. "Every villain is a hero in their own right."

  22. dimapez says:

    about the assassination: the security around important figures in Europe was ridiculously lax at the time, for example the emperor's (or rather Grand Duke's-) representative in Finland, the governor-general, didn't really have any kind of personal protection, and on 16th of June 1904 a lone assassin simply walked up to Nikolai Bobrikov, the Governor-General since 1898, and shot him three times before committing suicide.

  23. A lot of breadth but not much depth. I realize that the presentation couldn't be (and shouldn't have been) encyclopedic,but it was shallow enough that one could, without much pushing come away with the impression that the Serbs were this hot headed,unreasonably radical group of forever and for always malcontents who kicked over a string of dominoes that were set up by unspecified quirks of history.But those dominoes and why they were set up, how they were set up, and who set them up is the only thing that explains the geopolitical and national convulsions that were produced during and after the war. I think that EC while generating a very interesting and novel approach to historical presentation, in this case fell a little short of the mark. No, I don't think that you should have engaged in a retelling of "The Guns of August". But I think that just maybe you should have considered the possibility that some of your viewers might have read the darn thing! Just a friendly, and well meaning observation.

  24. Peter Due says:

    In norway the life sentence for ANY man is around 16, and in all of europe its around that time aswell (20-26), not THAT much of a diffrent world tbh

  25. I would love for the BBC or some other broadcaster to make a political drama about the run-up to the Great War. Historically accurate and as unbiased as possible. This is possibly the biggest story of modern European history. I had no idea how deep it all went! AWesome videos guys!

  26. hey you got the balls to come out to admit it. thats more than most

  27. Dave Robbins says:

    Outstanding work. The first episode made referred to the cataclysm that followed in the form of WWII, Cold War, and the tumult in the Middle East. I did not find an episode about the Treaty of Versailles, The Russian Revolution, or Sykes-Picoult. Perhaps I didn't find them, or perhaps they're to come. At any rate I think your team did great work.

  28. Wait, wasn't the Gavrilo Princip Statue was built at Belgrade

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