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Nationalism can be succinctly understood as an
extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of supremacy over other
countries whereby people express an excessive devotion to a nation. It is
argued that the idea of a “nation” first emerged during the
Enlightenment period, namely as a consequence of the ‘rational’ as opposed to
‘religious’ thinking propagated during this era that would give birth to the
American and French revolutions. Terms such as nationalism and patriotism will
be used interchangeably throughout, although the nuanced differences in these
terms has been noted. This essay will begin with an outline of the importance
of nationalism in the nineteenth century, examining pseudo-scientific and
social Darwinist theories that underpinned the construction of nation-hood. It
will then move onto explain how such theories were a prerequisite in creating strong
feelings of nationalism that fed the
fires of hatred in pre-war EuropeZM1 . (OTHER POINTS I WILL EXAMINE) This
essay will argue that nationalism was the most significant factor in causing
the outbreak of the First World War and explain using primary sources and contextual
knowledge, how nationalism was the overarching factor that interlinks all the
causes of the First World War together. Nationalist and patriotic feelings
drastically increased during the nineteenth century with the rise of
imperialism and Prussian Militarism. The patriotic sentiment towards one’s
country demanded the loathing of another country. Such assertive and zealous nationalism expressed by
European leaders created the ideal conditions for war. It influenced the
nations to secure a position of the highest superiority and to compete for diplomacy,
the largest army and navy (for example, the Anglo-German race), and the greatest industrial developments because European countries
believed in the cultural, economic and military supremacy of their nation which
was exacerbated due to the crisis of nationalist groups desiring independence.
Furthermore, it convinced civilisations that
their ravenous imperialistic rivalries were a threat to their nation. Therefore,
it can be said that nationalism was primarily fundamental in causing the
outbreak of the First World War. It is the most significant long-term factor
that underpins not only Imperialism and Prussian militarism but all the other
factors. Ultimately when combined with the short-term factors it triggered the
assassination of Archduke Ferdinand the 28th June 1914.

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