In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Serbia is Number 20 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Serbia was a powerful medieval kingdom conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1459. The Serbs regained their independence in the course of the 19th century, initially as the Principality of Serbia. Turkish forces were expelled from country in 1867 and in 1878, at the Congress of Berlin, the Great Powers (Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Germany, and Turkey) formally recognized Serbian independence. The Kingdom of Serbia was declared in 1882. The book includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The section on political history traces the internal and external aspects of the independence struggle and the complex relations between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the other Balkan states, notably Bulgaria. In explaining the rising tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary that eventually precipitated World War I, the study for the most part sides with Serbia. Later historians have taken a more balanced view, arguing that the immediate cause of war, the assassination by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, on June 28, 1914, of the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was carried out with the knowledge of, and possibly even direct support from, Serbian authorities. The study does not cover Serbia’s role in the war, which involved years of very bloody fighting with Austria and its allies, Germany and Bulgaria.

Last updated: September 5, 2014