Factors Leading To World War I

967 words - 4 pages

Modern nationalism began as a liberal reaction to the autocracy of the dynastic states of Europe. Before the nineteenth century, nationality was based upon personal allegiance to a monarch. So a Frenchman living in 1785 would rightfully consider himself a subject of the bourbon king Louis xvi rather than a citizen of France. Moreover, the Frenchman need not even have been French by language and tradition as most of the dynastic states were made up of a mixture of culturally diverse peoples. During the begging of the 1800s, however, the idea of allegiance to a geographical nation composed of people by joined by language, custom, and a common historical tradition proved too seductive to resist. Inspired by nationalistic writers like jean Paul Marat in France, Giuseppe Mazzini in Italy and Johann Wolfgang Goethe in Germany, one by one the states of Europe underwent a change which was more than cosmetic as a government and national boundaries were reforged along the logical lines of cultural distinctiveness. in France, Louis xvi was dethroned, eventually beheaded, and the monarchy replaced by a republican form of government. Germany, which at one time was composed of over three hundred independent principalities, was moving toward unification under the leadership of Prussia, following a path similar to Germany as Italian nationalists sought to unite their homeland while riding it of foreign rule. The Balkan states of Europe aspired to free themselves from the domination of the ottoman Turks, a domination which had lasted over three hundred years.
Since its impact first was felt in the nineteenth century Europe, nationalism has been an irrepressible force which has left its peculiar imprint upon the course of history. Yet as a shaping force in the world civilization, nationalism can be either beneficial or destructive, depending upon how it is used. When governments advocate international assistance, tolerance and fellowship without necessarily sacrificing the national distinctiveness with which people may identify and grow nationalism can be a constructive force. Conversely, when exclusivism is preached and imperialism is practiced, nationalism can be the most divisive and potentially the most catastrophic force in the history of humankind. Social Darwinism influenced nationalism in the mid-1800s. it created the idea of the "white man's burden" as the 'superior' race Anglo Saxons had the responsibility to colonize and civilize the barbaric people with colored skin who were 'scientifically proven to be inferior.' this idea gave Europeans therefore the right to go into foreigners lands and take over. They thought this would make it justified. They thought that they were doing them a favor. And when there was any resistance they could then justify violence against 'ungrateful and uncivilized inferiors’, which was not actually true. Nationalism had a large impact on the European nations in the mid-1800s until world war I and...

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