The Causes of World War I: Part 2 – Nationalism

A political cartoon illustrating the dangers of nationalism

The Causes of World War I: Part 2 – Nationalism

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.   (This post is a companion piece to Melina Druga’s WWI Trilogy, Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year, available wherever eBooks are sold.)

In the pre-World War I years, nationalism took two forms: the desire to establish homelands independent of the major powers, and the desire for dominance and prestige.

Nationalist Fervor

Prior to the war, many ethnic groups were under the control of the great European powers.

These groups included people living in modern day:

  • Poland
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Slovakia
  • Czech Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Croatia
  • All of Africa as well as parts of the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas

Many of these groups were involved in militant and anarchist activities. Their goal was to establish independent nations ruled by their people. This goal caused many smaller conflicts in the years leading up to the Great War.

Imperialist Powers

While ethnic groups were seeking independence, the great empires were determined to strengthen their power.

The great powers of the day were:

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 that 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 II and countless millions during the conflicts which took place between 1919 and 1939.

The WWI Trilogy by Melina Druga
The WWI Trilogy by Melina Druga: Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year

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Updated: 23 October 2020
Melina Druga
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Melina Druga is a multi-genre author with a lifelong love of history, books and the English language. She pens historical fiction, chick lit and nonfiction.
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