To what extent is militarism an important cause in the outbreak of World War I?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Militarism was a major cause of World War One, and it was a symptom of the deeper causes of the war. In the decades before the war, tensions increased between European nations and empires over a number of issues. These issues included colonial claims, ethnic disputes, old territorial squabbles, and...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Militarism was a major cause of World War One, and it was a symptom of the deeper causes of the war. In the decades before the war, tensions increased between European nations and empires over a number of issues. These issues included colonial claims, ethnic disputes, old territorial squabbles, and other disagreements. An atmosphere of nationalistic rivalry led all of the major nations of Europe, including the Ottoman Empire, to invest heavily in their armed forces. The result was a sort of arms race that saw Germany, Great Britain, and France in particular develop huge armies and especially navies. The military buildup had a sort of self-perpetuating effect, causing nations to eye each other with increasing suspicion, which led to calls for even more military development. Germany, for example, spent millions on developing a navy to rival that of Great Britain, but the knowledge of what Germany was up to led the British to increase the size of their already vast naval forces. Militarism in this way contributed to tensions between the major European powers in the early twentieth century.

But militarism contributed to the outbreak of war in another way. In Germany especially, in the words of one historian, military generals had a "preponderance in public affairs." The civilian leaders of most European nations were in fact heavily influenced by military leaders, and many of these men, in short, were eager for war. When the crisis of the summer of 1914 broke out, all of the leaders of Europe (again, Germany in particular) were receiving advice from military leaders instead of others who were more eager for a diplomatic solution. So in this way militarism helped exacerbate an already urgent crisis that led to the outbreak of war.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team