Gavrilo Princip's Sandwich

The politics that led to World War I are important, but difficult to teach in American schools because the events are distant in both time and place. To capture the interest of students, teachers often tell the story of how assassin Gavrilo Princip would not have been in shooting range of Franz Ferdinand that fateful day in 1914 if he hadn't stopped to buy a sandwich about the time the Archduke coincidentally passed by. Mike Dash first heard the story from his history-student daughter, and decided to investigate.
I was astonished by the story, too, though not because of the strangeness of the coincidence. It bothered me, because the details are new (you’ll struggle to find a telling of the tale that dates to before 2003), and because it simply doesn’t ring true. That’s not because the modern version isn’t broadly faithful to the facts; it’s not even utterly implausible that Princip might have stopped off at Schiller’s for a bite to eat. No, the problem is that the story is suspiciously neat–and that the sandwich is a quintessentially Anglo-American convenience food. The dish was named in the 1760s for John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was in the habit of requesting his meat placed between two slices of toast so he could lunch at his desk. But it took time for the idea to cross the Channel, and I find it hard to believe the sandwich would have featured on a Bosnian menu as early as 1914.

Dash found the surprising origin of the story, which gives us a glimpse of how, and why, our understanding of history tends to change over time. Read the entire account at the Smithsonian history blog Past Imperfect. Link

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Ha! It took me ten minutes to read this story, but only four minutes after posting, we have ten Tweets for it. I am flattered that so many people trust our judgement. Yeah, it really is that interesting.
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