The course of events that led to the First World War was marked by mistakes and failures of judgement on the part of the traditional elites, who saw going to war as a solution for internal and external problems.
At the centre of the maelstrom was a great power at a watershed moment in its history: Austria-Hungary. The shots fired at Sarajevo in June 1914 triggered off – but did not cause – a development that was to throw the old Europe out of joint.
The responsibility for the outbreak of war lay principally with the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. When they made their decisions, Berlin and Vienna consciously accepted the risk of an escalation, which when it happened set the calamitous mechanism of the alliance systems in motion.