Each armed conflict has motives that encourage confrontation between the parties. No war is the same as another; each one obeys exceptional situations and can only materialize in a specific space and time. Almost all the periods of our history have been defined by the result of wars and confrontation, and in war important events are sometimes the result of trivial causes.
Nationalism could be viewed as a form of patriotism but it differs in the sense where nationalism is an austere form of vigor and adherence towards one’s country, a nationalist only purpose is to execute and support the interests of their own country over others, while simultaneously having a blind perception of their country’s supremacy despite conspicuous flaws. Nationalism was a prevailing facet throughout Europe prior to 1914. Most pre-war Europeans devotedly believed in their military, economic, and cultural superiority. This sense of nationalism encouraged leaders of European nations to have some presumptuous an idealistic view of their own nation, assuring them that their country was built on preferable and ethical basis in contrast to their rival nations that were envisioned as inferior, vile and less evolved, thus creating a rivalry between each nation due to the consensus of superiority. Of the many factors, the main cause leading to the outbreak of the First World War was Great Britain’s extolled sense of nationalism given that its inconvenience gave favor to a long history of restless contention, meanwhile sowing seeds in its wake that would give fruit to industrialization, militarism, alliances, and imperialism, all subjects contributing to the same recipe; the disintegration of a continent and needless war. Britain’s sense of nationalism exerted an influence on the minds of Europeans by giving them a great ego and a thirst to demonstrate their vigor.
Nationalism was the author of selfishness and jealousy. Once the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 concluded, and prior to the finalization of European peace established by the balance of power, the 1800s were a century of comparable peace for Europe until Britain began to industrialize, the large-scale introduction of manufacturing, advanced technical enterprises, and other productive economic activity, provided a new reason to opt for the dismantling of peace and nations to join in the race of Industrialization in order to satiate their egos. Militarism is defined as an ideology or system that places great importance on military power, along with nationalism, this placed great emphasis on the domination of the military man over those deemed inferior, an excessive prevalence of military reinforcement and the stubborn conception to neglect harmony.
In the years prior to World War 1, Militarism ordained a significant development in several European nations, their governments being strongly dominated by military leaders and their mutual philosophy. With every nation attempting to match Great Britain’s newfound hegemonic power, militarism gave birth to the arms race. The arms race gave rise to new military technologies and increased demands for defense spending. Nationalism’s intricate resolution to reach new heights and proclaim some type of prominence influenced more than European policy but its culture, media and the population’s outlook.Nationalism along with the arms race presented an indifference to war, it contributed to a growing delusion of superiority and the fact that every nation sought to depend on this idea of world hegemony to assure that their nation was the utmost constituent in comparison to others .
Great Britain was a nationalist to heart and without any fault, they became so drunk in their self-image and title as the most hegemonic power, they continuously spend money on their naval power that was backed by their economic might , all in favor to maintain and feed their greatness, an excerpt from David Lloyd George’s Mansion House Speech on July 22, 1911, gives us an insight on british ideology, “I believe it is in the highest interests of the world that Great Britain should maintain her place and her prestige amongst the Great Powers of the world. Her potent influence has many times in the past been invaluable to the cause of human liberty. It had more than once redeemed Continental nations from overwhelming disaster … I would make a great sacrifice to preserve peace … if a situation were to be forced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficial position Britain has won … I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation.” In his speech David Lloyd speaks through his nation, his words are placed and organized in an aspect that makes it reasonable for Great Britain to maintain its hegemonic power, subtly stating that if Britain was ever faced with a situation that compromised this title they would be obligated to attack, this speech indirectly refers to Germany due to the fact that at that time Great Britain’s status was threatened by the Unification of The New Germany and its rapid industrialization and military power. Suffice to say by the 1800s certain European Nations had grown intoxicated with Nationalism, Great Britain was a great example of this, being able to boast on two centuries of well spent imperial dominance over three-fourths of the world.Although in comparison to Great Britain, Germany was hardly a young country in the making, formed in 1871 after Otto Von Bismarck, engineered the unification of Germany in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war. Germany might have formed under different circumstances but it shared the same European mindset of other nations, maintaining a nationalist and bigoted ideology of the world around them.
The leaders of 1871 acquired a prominent devotion towards nationalism sentiment to incorporate influential views and strengthen the new nation. In a succession that literally happened overnight, the new German Empire became a predominant continental power due to the different German-speaking that had already begun their own industrialization prior to the unification of Germany. The new emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, opted to represent and personify a new nation. The Kaiser was prideful of Germany’s upcoming however there was tension residing in his being for whatever challenges Germany would be presented with; he was of feeble temper, jealous of rival nations and desperate to portray an image of superiority. The main obstacle to German expansion was obviously Britain as Britain had already crowned itself as the hegemonic power of Europe. Wilhelm saw Britain’s mighty empire and unbeatable naval power as a threat and the Britain population as hypocrites. The British government oversaw the world’s largest empire and orchestrated a big part of the colonial expansion in Africa and Asia.
In the wake of technological advancements and a surge of military power European nations started seeking other methods to continue expanding and proclaim themselves as a hegemonic power. With the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution in the year 1850, an enormous economic development began in Europe that at the same time started a double process: the birth of European Imperialism and the process of massive colonization of Africa. From 1870 the three great European powers: Great Britain, France and the German Empire launched the conquest of Africa, seeking to establish colonies to supply their countries with the much needed raw materials that devoured the gigantic industry developed with the Industrial Revolution . At the same time as securing raw materials at a very low price, the colonies would serve as secondary markets to which to export some of the European surpluses, since the European settlers established in Africa and in Asia demanded the acquisition of products according to their needs and a Western way of life. In short, the colonies allowed the great powers to create artificial economic markets that provided the raw materials necessary for the gigantic industrial and technological development that Europe lived in addition to generating a way out for overpopulation. All these advances meant that the standard of living improved a lot in Europe and the feeling of prosperity together with nationalist sentiment caused imperialism to become the predominant political ideology: the great powers believed that due to their cultural and economic superiority (which together with the racist beliefs of the superiority of the white race over the other races) granted them the right to govern and economically exploit all those who were inferior to them (social Darwinism). They were no longer nations, they were empires destined to rule the world.
This imperialist doctrine was disseminated primarily by the British Empire and its imitation emerged similar models in the other two great powers of Europe: France and Germany. Each of these three great powers tried to impose their will in Europe and for that they had to overcome their rivals and prevent them from competing with them. Obviously the only solution to solve this and that a power could obtain total supremacy was war As Great Britain continued to fill itself with pride, and the sense of righteousness and superiority, a comparable form of nationalism was on its journey towards southern Europe.
The exacerbated Britain nationalism became the argument of the imperialist expansion, stimulating the idea of ??the ethnic superiority of some countries over others, and the corresponding “obligation” to civilize those who were less evolved. This brand new form of nationalism wasn’t so dependent on the prospects of supremacy or military prowess – but the moral convention of ethnic groups to independence. With half of the world separated by many spheres of influence and large empires, many groups of regions and races sought freedom from their imperial lords.
In Russia, multiple parts of eastern Europe and Asia were forced to assimilate with Russian language, culture, and their Orthodox religion. For much of the 1800s China had been molded and economically exploited by European powers to meet their interests; influenced by their resentment the Chinese formed the boxers rebellion and attempted to exiled nationalist to rid their country of foreign influence. It can be argued that the system of alliances between the European powers was what triggered an initial war between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia ended up being a global conflagration. On the one hand the alliance that had an exorbitant effect was that of the Triple Alliance between the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire and Italy.
It was formed in 1882 under the command of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismark. On the other the so-called Triple Entente, created in 1907 between France, the Russian Empire and Great Britain, which would join Serbia. So after the assassination in June 1914 of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne by a group the Serbian Black Hand terrorist, a domino effect was created given that Austro Hungarian declared war on Serbia and the system of alliances was unleashed. The Russian Empire declared war on the Austro-Hungarian, and in turn the German on the Russians.
France, ally of Russia through the Triple Entente, to the Central Empires. We had already formed the main core of the First World War. Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium and this caused the entry of Great Britain.The British Empire based its policy on a simple premise: for Britain to have the supremacy in Europe it had to control maritime trade with the largest and best war fleet possible, to this domino at sea it had to join a foreign policy aimed at promoting the division between the terrestrial powers of the continent. That is to say, Great Britain wanted at all costs to avoid that a single power obtained the supremacy in the continental Europe and that after that it could rival Great Britain and discuss the supremacy in Europe. Being an island and having a powerful war fleet, Britain could intervene in the various European military conflicts without being directly threatened with a military invasion.
On the other hand, its enormous economic capacity allowed Britain to finance large amounts of money to other states to make war for it. This policy allowed Great Britain to defeat the powerful France of Napoleon I and the Russian Empire in the Crimean War (1853-1856). After the disappearance of the great powers able to rival it, the British Empire began a new phase in its policy, isolating itself from the problems of the continent and allowing the rest of the powers to fight among themselves without intervening, since the continental disunity increased the British power.
However, two events forced Britain to change its policy: the clashes between powers for the control of Africa and the dizzying rise of Germany, a power that had begun to overtake Great Britain in economic development and was building a fleet that to keep things that way would be able to rival the British in a few years. The problem was solved with the British – French division of most of Africa, (except some colonies that Germany owned) and the incorporation of Great Britain to the Triple Entente. Thus, Great Britain abandoned its policy of isolationism and of “divide and conquer” by an active anti-German policy, adding its destiny to those of France and Russia.