The causes of World War One are varied and complicated. This week we will examine five of them, breaking them down, making them easier to understand.
Nationalism is defined as patriotism and the spirit of a country. It also is defined as asserting that your country’s interests are separate from the interests of others. This second definition led to the belief that there is no greater and more honorable death than to die for one’s country.
In the prewar years, nationalism took two forms: the desire to establish homelands independent of the major powers, and the desire for dominance and prestige.
Prior to the war, many ethnic groups were under the control of the large European powers. These groups included:
- The Czech Republic
- All the nations in Africa as well as parts of the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas
Many of these were involved in militant and anarchist activities. Their end goal: the establishment of an independent nation ruled by their people. This goal led to many smaller conflicts in the years leading up to the Great War.
At the same time as ethnic groups sought independence, the great powers were determined to strengthen their power.
The great powers of the day were:
- The British Empire
- The Russian Empire
- The Ottoman Empire
Many politicians as well as newspapers contended war was a natural way of preserving power.
Once war did erupt, the majority of people in the combatant nations viewed participation as their patriotic duty, that their nation’s cause was just and the enemy was the aggressor. This belief would eventually contribute to the deaths of approximately 16 million people between 1914 and 1918, 60 million during World War Two and countless millions during the conflicts which took place between 1919 and 1939.
In what ways do you see nationalism rearing its ugly head today? Leave a comment below.
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