Armed Hostilities

The Great War Outbreak: Nationalism, Militarism, and Imperialism

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Nationalism, Imperialism, and Militarism
  3. The Great War
  4. References


The First World War was one of the most bloody and large-scale conflicts in human history. It began July 28, 1914, and ended November 11, 1918. This conflict involved 38 countries. The causes of the First World War were versatile; it can be argued that the serious economic contradictions existing at the beginning of the century between the alliances have provoked this conflict. Also, it is worth noting that probably there was a peaceful resolution to this conflict; however, the situation turned out differently.

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Nationalism, Imperialism, and Militarism

It should be mentioned that nationalism, imperialism, and militarism have made a significant contribution to the outbreak of the War. Nationalistic and imperialistic ideologies are complex and contradictory in their nature. Nationalism is a concept and a socio-political phenomenon; its object is the nation (Emmerson, 2013). Imperialism is a state policy aimed at supporting unequal relations. In foreign policy, it is manifested in the conquest of territories, forming colonies, political or economic control over other countries. In domestic policy, a significant role is played by an industrial and financial monopoly (monopoly capitalism).

The developed capitalist countries of the West began to move to the imperialist policies, which was caused by the expanding globalization of the capitalist system, the monopoly of large corporations, militarism, and colonialism of the Western powers (Emmerson, 2013). The growing demand for raw materials supply and new markets made Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Japan, and the United States to enter into an intense rivalry for the final division of the world space into zones of influence. Therefore, the foreign imperialist expansion in the West was viewed as a means of capital accumulation and as a way to solve the social issues within the country. Regarding Germany, a strong militaristic attitude, and nationalist sentiment pushed the country to the path of open military aggression, for which Germany created Europe’s first military-political block the Triple Alliance. Meanwhile, the completion of the territorial division of the world led to a new round of fights for the redistribution of areas of influence. As a result, after a series of local imperialist conflicts between the Western countries, the West was on the verge of war.

For Russia, the key theme was the question of the Slavic peoples living in the Balkans. The ideas of Pan-Slavism, which lead to the Russian-Turkish war in 1880-1890’ss was spread in the XX century and was intensified in 1915 (Black, 2011). The main idea was to return Constantinople, which was supposed to solve all the problems of the straits of the Black Sea to the Mediterranean passage. As evidenced, there were several major interests of the participating countries crossed. Thus, the level of political, geopolitical, economic, and cultural conflicts was equally important.

It is also crucial to note the role of the Alliance system in unleashing a full-scale war that lasted more than four years and ended with the disappearance of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German and Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. By the end of the XIX century, the aggressive plans of Germany became clearer to its neighbors. In response, France and Russia in 1891 entered into a military alliance, which was joined by England in 1907 (Black, 2011). The confrontation of the blocks led to the military conflict in which Germany was the major player.

The Great War

When the War commenced, the views and perceptions of the American people were versatile: they supported the position of the countries where they originally came from; thus, the members of the society were on the sides of the opposing blocks. However, as the time passed, most of the American citizens started to share the views of the Entente, which was encouraged by several successive events. President Wilson on January 22, 1917, presented the acceptable for the US peace terms in the Senate (James & Wells, 2014). The most important of them was the term limited to the demand for peace without annexations or indemnities; the president tried to reassure the people that the acceptance of the peace terms would ensure the security of everyone.

On January 31, 1917, the German government announced their decision to disturb enemy communications (James & Wells, 2014). Submarines restricted the access to the supply routes of the Entente, which has complicated its operations drastically. The hostility was increasing among the Americans. In the case of victory, Germany could gain governance of the Atlantic Ocean (James & Wells, 2014). Apart from that, the US was pushed by other motives. The US economic interests were directly linked with the Entente countries as the demands for the equipment for the War resulted in the fast boosting of the industry of the USA. The worrying perceptions of Germany have accumulated after the events at the beginning of March 1917. On April 6, 1917, it was decided to declare the First World War.

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The entry of the USA into the war improved the prospects for the victory of the Entente. In January 1918, Wilson made a public statement of US plans for the postwar world (James & Wells, 2014). This program included the proposal to create the League of Nations – the universal international organization designed to ensure a stable and sustainable development of the postwar system of international relations.

During the peace negotiations, Wilson stressed the importance of establishing the League of Nations. He considered several different compromises, in particular, money payments and the question of the land belonging anticipating altering them in the framework of the development of the League. However, after the victory of the Republicans in the elections in 1918, the internal political tensions intensified (Hart, 2013). The opposition was able to prevent a quick review of the treaty, which menaced to wreck its approval (Hart, 2013). The heads of the opposition gained the endorsement of the Republicans. The party was afraid that if Wilson would get approval, his political views would bring severe consequences to the country; and there were also those who believed that US commitment to international liability would slow down the further development of American democracy. As a result, the Senate rejected the document twice and later the League of Nations began its functioning without America’s participation.

Thus, the outcomes of the War were mixed for the United States. While at the conference, the US delegation was able to prevent the implementation of the plans of the UK and France; though, the president was unable to carry out his ambitious plans fully. The ambiguity of the results of the Paris Peace Conference determined the stressful nature of the struggle in Congress on the issue of the ratification of the peace treaties.


Black, J. (2011). The great war and the making of the modern world. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Emmerson, C. (2013). 1913: The world before the great war. New York, NY: Random House.

Hart, P. (2013). The great war: 1914-1918. London, UK: Profile Books.

James, C., & Wells, A. (2014). America and the great war: 1914 – 1920. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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