The 1919 Versailles War Guilt clause of the bloodied victors cannot meaningfully inform analysis of intention prior to the war. Vindictive and propagandist hindsight is likely to be misleading and one sided. That does not mean that their conclusion of German intention is necessarily wrong, though. .
Nor can the eventual long-term conduct of the war reflect on intention or otherwise at the outset. Trenches were an unanticipated (though not unprecedented) feature of the conflict, with a rapid manoeuvre war anticipated and planned by all participants . .
Many respected historians take the view that the outbreak was an unarguable accident.
Few maintained then, and fewer would maintain now, that the outbreak of war was deliberately foreseen and planned by any Power or even by any general staff.
Taylor, A.J.P., The Rise and Fall of 'Pure' Diplomatic History in From the Boer War to the Cold War , London, Hamish Hamilton, 1995 (article itself written in 1956).
Defenders of this 'accidental' proposition, which it is hoped this essay will disprove, normally take 1 of 2 tracks.
1 - that the murder of the Archduke produced an unanticipated crisis, which pushed nations on the brink over the edge. This focuses on short-term causes.
2 - a focus on the intention to remain at peace, diminishing the significance of pre-established mobilization and war plans. This focuses on long-term causes.
Each of these will be considered in turn.
Short Term Causes.
There was no knee-jerk reaction on the 28th June, inspired by either personal loyalty or nationalistic fervour. Austria waited an entire month to go to war, having carefully constructed an unacceptable ultimatum for Serbia and secured German support. And Austria had designs on Serbia alone. .
Other parties waited a further week, so there was plenty of time to consider a response. The policies of previous decades transformed a dramatic terrorist attack into the logical culmination of long-term events.