Were Nationalistic Beliefs Ultimately Responsible for the Outbreak of the First World War

1107 WordsMar 5, 20115 Pages
Were nationalistic beliefs ultimately responsible for the outbreak of the First World War? Can nationalism be held solely responsible for starting what is usually regarded as the most destructive war, at least in terms of human lives, the world had ever seen? The answer to this question is a solid no. Though nationalism played an important role in the outbreak of the war there are many other contributing factors which must be taken into account. Imperialism, militarism, the arms race and the balance of power in Europe were all important factors that lead to WW1. The conflict commenced when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the capital of Serbia. This act, however,…show more content…
Acknowledging that Germany was the leader in military organization and efficiency, the great powers of Europe copied the universal conscription, large reserves and detailed planning of the German system. Armies and navies were greatly expanded during the late 19th century. For example, the standing armies of France and Germany doubled in size between 1870 and 1914 while naval expansion was also extremely competitive, particularly between Germany and Great Britain. By 1889, the British had established the principle that in order to maintain naval superiority in the event of war they would have to have the largest navy. As Britain increased their output of battleships, Germany correspondingly stepped up their naval production. Ultimately militarism, which was spawned from nationalism, created the arms race which greatly heightened tension among the European powers and was a significant contributor to the outbreak of WW1. Perhaps the other inter-related key cause of WW1 was imperialism which contributed to the increase of rivalry in Europe. Imperialism "was the desire of nations to own colonies and form an empire". By 1900 the British Empire extended over five continents while France had control of large areas of Africa. The amount of lands 'owned' by Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa. Accordingly, it

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