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The Role of Nationalism in Fostering Global Conflict in History

Nationalism fueled tensions between nations, leading to a chain reaction of events that eventually resulted in the global conflict that ended peace (Kotkin,2022). The rise of nationalist movements, the impact of imperialist ambitions, and the role of nationalistic propaganda triggered the First World. The outbreak of the First World War was the rise of nationalist movements in Europe. Throughout the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, various nations sought to assert their independence and promote their unique cultural identities (Glynn, 2023). Nationalism surge created a sense of pride and loyalty towards one’s nation, breeding hostility towards other nations. For example, the unification of Germany in 1871 under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck was driven by German nationalism. This newfound coupled the desire for territorial expansion rising tension to the neighboring countries such as France and Russia.

Imperialistic ambitions exacerbated the nationalist tensions in Europe. As nations vied for power and resources, they sought to expand their territories through colonization and acquisition of overseas colonies. Scramble for colonies intensified rivalries between nations and created a sense of competition and mistrust. For example, the naval arms race between Britain and Germany was largely driven by their imperialist ambitions. This race of dominance not only heightened nationalist sentiments but also increased the likelihood of conflict as nations sought to protect their interests and assert their power.

Nationalistic propaganda also fueled the flames of war. Government and political leaders had to use propaganda to manipulate public opinion and foster a sense of national unity. The propaganda portrayed other nations as enemies and emphasized the superiority of one’s own nation. Media such as newspaper and posters were used to disseminate nationalistic messages and shape public perception. For example, the infamous “yellow press” in the United States played a significant role in fostering ant-German sentiments and pushing the country towards war. The sensationalist fervor and contributed to the growing tensions between nations.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Australia-Hungary in June 1914 catalyst the outbreak of war, but it was the underlying nationalist tensions that turned a localized conflict into a global one (Bozanich, 2023). The Serbian nationalist triggered a series of diplomatic crises and alliances that eventually led to the outbreak of war. Nationalistic sentiments shaped the response of various nations to this event. Austria-Hungary, driven by a desire to assert its power in protecting its national interest and issued an ultimatum to Serbia and it was intentionally designed rejected. Germany supported this move and viewed the conflict as an opportunity to assert its own power and expand its influence in Europe. Driven by its commitment to pan-Slavism, Russia felt obligated to support Serbia and support its fellow Slavic nation. (Geva, 2023) The reaction of the nationalist responses led to a full-scale war that engulfed Europe and later spread to other parts of the world.

In conclusion, nationalism acted as the major cause of the First World War. Nationalist movements fueled by desire for independence and cultural identity, created tensions between nations. Imperialist ambitions further intensified these tensions as nation sought to expand the territories and assert their power. Nationalistic propaganda shaped public opinion, fostering a sense of national pride and unity. Ultimately, it was underlying nationalist tensions that turned a localized conflict into a global war. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand acted as a trigger, whereas the deep-rooted nationalist sentiments that led to the outbreak of the First World War.


Kotkin, S. (2022). The Cold War Never Ended: Ukraine, the China Challenge, and the Revival of the West. Foreign Aff.101, 64.

Bozanich, S. (2023). Misfire: the Sarajevo Assassination and the Winding Road to World War I: Miller-Melamed, Paul. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 280 pp., $29.95, ISBN 9780195331942.

Geva, R. (2023). Torn between the nation and the world: DF Karaka and Indian journalism in the Second World War. Modern Asian Studies57(5), 1459-1494

. Glynn, H. (2023). ” In His Country’s Service:” Irish Catholic Military Participation in the First World War (Doctoral dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte).


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