Was nationalistic fervour ultimately responsible for the outbreak of the First World War?

Essay by macca118High School, 11th gradeA, December 2006

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Was nationalistic fervour 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 qualified 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, was merely the spark which lit the flame of war. Though there are many cause of the war arguably the most significant of these was the widespread feeling of nationalism in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.

Though nationalistic fervour cannot be held solely accountable for the war it still played a large part in causing WW1. Nationalism is a strong feeling of support for ones nation, best expressed in the concept of patriotism. Nationalists believed that "the needs of their nations were more important than the needs of other nations. Nationalists were so proud of their country that they wanted to be the richest and most important country - and recognised as such". Nationalism often created tension among the nations of Europe. For example, at the settlement of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the principle of nationalism was ignored in favour of preserving the peace. Germany and Italy were left as divided states, but, subsequently, strong nationalist movements and revolutions led to the unification of Italy in 1861 and that of Germany in 1871. Similarly, as...