How Nationalism, Militarism And Inflexible Alliances Led To Outbreak Of World War I Essays Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: War, Countries, Military, Russia, Europe, Germany, Violence, World

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/11


Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia on 28 July, 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, in Bosnia along with his wife by a Serbian nationalist. However, this apparently small conflict between the two nations spread like wild fire soon. Germany, Great Britain, France and Russia were gradually pulled into the war, mainly due to their involvement in some treaties that made them obligatory to protect certain other countries. Within a few weeks, the conflict spread around the world and all the major powers joined the war. The two major opposing war alliances comprised of the Allies, including France, Great Britain and Russia and the Central Alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary (John). Gradually, the two alliances expanded as many other countries entered the war. United States, Japan and Italy joined the Allies as Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers. World War I was one of the dangerous conflicts in the world history that paved way for many political changes and revolutions in many countries involved in the war.

Three major causes that led to World War I

During the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, most of the European countries were involved in expanding their military powers to fight other countries and acquire their colonies. Because countries fought and captured colonies of other countries, the people of the countries were not happy about their new leaders. And during the nineteenth century the concept of nationalism spread throughout Europe. The principle of nationalism is that a nation is to be ruled by its own people. The growing militarism in Europe stimulated countries to enter into defense alliances. Thus Nationalism, militarism and the defense alliances between countries were the main reasons behind the World War I.

Inflexible alliances as a cause for the war

The spark created by the killing of Archduke Ferdinand started the war, and in due course one event led to another (The causes of World War I). Because of the killing of Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia, which had a treaty with Serbia, joined the war in support of Serbia. Germany, who was an alley of Austria-Hungary, declared war against Russia to defend Austria-Hungary. France, having a treaty with Russia, joined the war in support of Russia and thus was fighting Austria-Hungary. Britain also had a treaty with France to defend her, and thus joined the war to fight Germany. Similarly, Japan too joined the war to fight Germany. America, though was having a neutral stand till 1917, finally joined the war to fight Germany since it was threatened by Germany through submarine warfare. Italy, even though bound by a treaty to defend Austria-Hungary and Germany finally joined with the allies to fight its former allies. Similarly, many countries around the world that had inflexible alliances with any other country that entered the war were compelled to join the war due to the rigidity of the treaties they had entered into to defend each other. Thus, the alliance these countries entered with each other resulted in countries fighting each other without any real cause. Even though the Great War that led to the death of millions seemed to have started by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, in fact, only the Austrians and Hungarians appeared to revenge the death of Ferdinand by fighting Serbia and its allies. All other countries, which joined the war due to their commitment warranted by the alliance deals as a chain reaction, fought for different reasons. For example, Germany, which joined hands with Austria-Hungary to fight Serbia in the beginning of the Great War, used this opportunity to invade France and Belgium within the first few weeks of battling the war. Thus, the war did not start all of a sudden in response to a political association, since most of the European nations were boiling internally for years to fight vulnerable countries to establish their supremacy, and they rightly used the assassination of Ferdinand as an opportunity to start fighting (George, p. 32). Thus, alliance deals between the European nations that was rather inflexible dragged countries one after the other into the war and to use the opportunity to fight their enemy nations to achieve their individual ambitions.

Militarism and the war

During a few decades before 1914, militarism was an accepted system in many European countries. Military personnel powerfully influenced aristocracies and governments. In many countries, admirals and generals acted as de facto heads of governments by advising the political rulers and even by influencing the policies of the governments and demanding large defense expenditures for expanding naval and military forces (Militarism as a cause of World War I). Since the late nineteenth century almost all European countries adopted compulsory military services. For example, within one year prior to the start of the war, Germany rapidly increased its military force by 170,000 men; France extended the service of military personnel to three years instead of two; Russia increased the service to three and a half years from the previous three years. In fact, all the nations of Europe increased their military forces and stocks substantially. Also, countries produced most modern war weapons besides improving strategic railway lines. Militarism led to rivalry between nations in addition to alerting countries about the coming of war at any time. Countries like Germany and Russia faced high military control in the affairs of the government. Countries also had alliances with each other that bound them to cooperate with each other’s military forces. For instance, Britain, France and Russia held secret talks on improving cooperation of military forces. Also, the French and British naval authorities consented to an agreement that France should deploy its naval forces in the Mediterranean whereas the British should deploy their naval forces in the North Sea. Similarly, Germany and Austria had secret military agreements which bound both countries to fight enemies of either country since the military plans were done together. Thus, by the year 1914 all the European powers had well equipped military infrastructures ready to fight a war which was rightly sparked by the killing of Ferdinand.

Nationalism and the war

Two kinds of nationalism based thoughts were popular among the European countries during the nineteenth century. Firstly, the citizens of countries wanted independence from foreign rulers and secondly independent nations had a thirst to dominate other nations. Hence one of the major reasons for the war was the desire of nations to dominate other nations. Germany became the strongest military and economic power in Europe during the 1880s after the Franco-Prussian war. To become still stronger, Germany made peace alliances with many nations of Europe. Gradually, Germany wanted to increase its influence in all parts of the world which motivated it to become more aggressive to use military power to win wars. Similarly, Britain became the most advanced nation in Europe by the 1870s because of its advancement in the field of industry. Also, Britain had the largest naval power in the world in addition to possessing the biggest overseas empire. Hence Britain’s main objective was to preserve the overseas empire by having a powerful naval force. The interest of both France and Britain in colonizing often made them clash with each other. For example, both Britain and France had their colonies in Asia and Africa. Colonial rivalries of both countries continued to occur in India, Thailand, Burma and Egypt. The interest Russia showed in conquering the Balkan countries continued to alarm Britain mainly because it was a big threat for Britain’s naval interests in the area, particularly the Mediterranean Sea. As Germany wanted to increase its naval power it ultimately became the main enemy of Britain. As for France, having experienced defeat in the hands of Germany over dominating the colonies, France aspired to avoid further defeat in the hands of Germany for which it established diplomatic treaties with many powerful nations of Europe. Austria-Hungary ruled citizens of many nationalities belonging to the Balkan countries like Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Czechoslovakia. But only the Austrians and Hungarians continued to rule the country even as Austria-Hungary struggled to form logical foreign policies to suit the needs of all nationals (Williamson, p.15). This led the other nationalists to dream independence, and finally showed the way to form many nationalist movements to fight for freedom which became more evident with the assassination of Ferdinand. Therefore, the spirit of nationalism and the longing to be independent of foreign rule was one of the major causes of World War I.


Over the following four years, the Great War dragged many nations including Japan, America, Italy and the Middle East nations to fight for establishing their supremacy on the earth. Around 20 million men died in the war while fighting whereas nearly 21 million were wounded. Millions of people were killed by the war related epidemic like influenza. Toward the end, World War I left ruined three major former imperial dynasties namely Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Besides, the war unleashed revolutionary forces like Bolshevism in Russia. The war, fought by nations at the strength of inflexible alliance entanglement with other nations centered on self- protection and on the ideologies of militarism and nationalism of individual nations, came to an end after fighting each other for four years with the signing of Versailles Treaty.

Works Cited

George, David Lloyd. War Memoirs of David Lloyd George. London: Nicholson & Watson, 1933. Print.
John Whiteclay Chambers II. "World War I (1914–18)." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. 3 Apr. 2015 <>.
"Militarism as a Cause of World War I." Alpha History. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. <http://>.
"The Causes of World War I." First World 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 3 Jan. 2015. <http://>.
Williamson, Samuel R. Austria-Hungary and the Origins of the First World War. New York: St. Martin's, 1991. Print.

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