In 1914, the First World War broke out. It is the war which involved most of the countries in the world. The Sarajevo Assassination has triggered off the war as Austria-Hungary use it as a war excuse to declare war on Serbia. To a large extent I think that extreme nationalism is the most significant factor in leading the outbreak of the First World War. “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind”. This was said by Albert Einstein. Nationalism is the desire of people of the same race and culture to govern themselves and to keep their own way of life. In the Early 19th century, It started common belief of people’s right with liberalism.
However, nationalism became more extreme and furious since 1871. People commonly believed that their country was usually right and superior to other country. They aimed to promote the national glory of their country by weakening the others. This resulted in many conflicts. Firstly, for the independence movement of the Balkan states, they aimed to get free from foreign rule and thus the Eastern Question emerged. Eastern Question means a series of problems happened in the Balkans. It had a nasty long term effect on international relationship. It was true to say that it caused by the rise of Balkan nationalism. Powers would not give way because Balkan is strategically important and most importantly, for the sake for promoting national glory.
Secondly, for the Pan-German Movement, Germany wanted to build a big German empire. She wanted to expand into the Balkans and West Asia. This alarmed the powers like Britain and Russia and increased the tension between the powers. Thirdly, for the Pan-Slav Movement, Russia wanted to unite all Slavs into a big Slav state under Russian leadership. These complicated the Eastern Questions and had conflicts with Austria-Hungary. Fourthly, for the Greater Serbia Movement, Serbia wanted to expand Serbia and united her with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania. This worsened the Austro-Serbian relationship and brought two Balkan Wars which increased Austro-Serbian hostilities. In addition, the wars made Austria-Hungary became more determined to crush Serbia. The crisis made Europe toward to the First World War and the Sarajevo Assassination made it speed up even more. As the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated by Princip, the member of Black Hand.
This provided Austria-Hungary had the excuse to attack Serbia. Finally, the war broke out. Fifthly, for the revenge movement led by France, she wanted to take revenge on Germany owing to her lost of Alsace-Lorraine and the humiliation suffered from the Franco-Prussian War. Bismarck started the alliance system to isolate France and avoid a two-front war against Germany. Therefore, the Three Emperor’s League was formed by Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. But finally, the Three Emperor’s League broke up. In the First World War, The two rival alliances were Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. They agreed to assist each other if they were attacked by other powers. But this didn’t contribute a lot to the First World War, it only increased the mutual suspicion and distrust between the powers. Besides, powers formed the alliances for self-protection. Therefore, compared with extreme nationalism, it is not a significant factor.
Sixthly, for the expansion, Germany, France, Britain and Russia both wanted to get national glory by building a big colonial empire by strengthening their armaments. This resulted in the colonial rivalry. Due to the saturation of the European market, powers competed with one another to acquire direct control over the colonies. When William II became the new Kaiser, Germany adopts an active colonial policy. He aimed to get more colonies to get national glory as colonies were a symbol of national strength. Some believed in the saying that colonial rivalries only worsened international relation and caused tension between powers. It is only partly true, colonial rivalries may also improve the relationship between powers when one was compromised. For example, Britain and France had conflicts in Sudan, but finally France withdrew and won British friendship. It showed that colonial rivalries can worse or improve the international relation.
The expansion also resulted in militarism. Powers spend more money on military built-up. They produced powerful weapons like poison gas, tanks etc. Also, they enlarge the army and navy. Powers’ thought that strong military could defend themselves. The strong navies were needed to protect a country’s overseas colonies and their interests. Although armaments race created more suspicion and fear, it is self-defence in nature. Therefore, it is not a significant factor. Seventhly, the economic rivalries between the powers contributed to the protectionism. They increased tariffs on the imported products to protect their home markets and local industries. This increase suspicion and hostility among the powers.
But when it compared with extreme nationalism, it is again not a significant factor. Eighthly, social Darwinists believed in the ideas of “ survival for the fittest” and “natural selection”. These ideas were applied in the international politics. It gave rise to the expansionism. Again, It is not the most significant factor. To sum up, the extreme nationalism is the fundamental factor. The others are the auxiliary factor. There are many forms of nationalism, include the independence movements, unification, the revenge movement and the expansion, each of them gave rise to another factor. Therefore, to a large extent, extreme nationalism is the most significant factor in leading the outbreak of First World War.
Courtney from Study Moose