The leaders involved all recalled the history of 1914 at the outbreak of the Great War. Each tried not to make the same mistakes. Nevertheless, a whole new conflagration broke out. Does this show, as Emerson suggested, that "events are in the saddle and ride mankind"? Overy thinks that the actions of individuals in the crucial days leading up the the full outbreak of war could have made a difference, and this always remains an intriguing question. The see-saw back and forth in historical judgment between free will and determinism, the great issue of Tolstoy and his critics, remains a challenge, with one side scoring a strike, and then the other counter-punching with gusto. This is, perhaps, why good history remains so intriguing. But rather than ending on my peroation, let me quote Overy, who says this better than me, and with more authority:
However large or long-term the forces making for war, there was a moment when those forces had to be confronted and harsh decisions taken by the principal historical actors involved. In the story of those dramatic days immediately before the outbreak of war, much still stood in the balance. Great events generate their own dynamic and their own internal history. The outbreak of war now sees a natural consequence of the international crisis provide principally by Hitler's Germany. What follows is intended to show that nothing in history is evitable. The stage dialogue between system and actors is at the heart of the historical narrative. Events themselves can be both cause and consequence, none more so than the events that led Europe to war seventy years ago. (From the Preface, x).