Europe: Age of Nationalism (Exam Two, Spring 2003) What are the strengths of each essay? How could they be improved?
What letter grade would you give each essay? Justify your grade. 1) Sample Essay:
Nationalism played the largest role in the beginnings of the Great War. The feelings of nationalism and patriotism developed in Germany, France, Russia, and Great Britain all gave each nation a feeling of superiority over one another and the ethnic group it identifies itself with. Propaganda and industrial progress of the day, led many citizens to believe that their nation was supreme and that imperialism was justified because Europeans were bringing civilization to the rest of the globe. Militarism is the building up of armed forces to prepare for an upcoming conflict. This is typical of the First World War because Germany and Great Britain were locked in a naval arms race, and each side believed they were going to defeat one another by out-producing one another. Another example of militarism is in the size of the Russian army. The Russians believed that no other army could stand up to them and defeat them simply because they had the largest army in the world at that time, and this led them to walk right into a trap the Germans had laid for them.
European society itself was on the decline as well. Years of industrial progress had brought pain and suffering onto citizens of developing nations. Citizens were becoming increasingly more vocal for change in their government. But, as this was happening, the governments were trying to instill national pride so that workers remained divided with one another.
Also the European alliance system made sure that if any nation in Europe went to war, all other nations would be at war as well. And with all the civil unrest of the early 20th century, many European nations believed that a war would be quick, decisive and great for national spirit and morale. Many of the top generals believed the war would be over by Christmas.
The Great War differed from all previous wars because the number of dead was greater than all other European wars in the previous century. Millions upon millions of people died between 1914 and 1918. More and more men died fighting because the weapons of the day were farther advanced than the tactics many of the commanders believed would work. The generals of the time still used Napoleonic-style tactics and believed in the “cult of the offensive,” where the troops would charge headlong at enemy positions and just get mowed down by machine gun fire and troops firing from prepared defenses.
Also, WWI was the first war between many, if not all, of the world’s industrial powers. The nation’s war efforts focused on mobilizing the entire civilian populace to produce ammunition, guns, uniforms, etc. Also, the rail networks and roads of these countries were used to rapidly move troops to the front to replace losses and bolster defense that would have taken weeks 100 years ago. And, the concept of total war had not been utilized. Total war includes all the above mentioned and this is the first war where civilians became targets of bombings and artillery barrages. Crippling the enemy’s infrastructure from producing war materials meant gaining an edge. This is a war of attrition on a huge scale. Whoever can outlast and out-produce the other can win.
The United States officially entered the First World War in April 1917. In part, this was due Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare around the British Isles. Germany stated than any commerce headed for Britain was a target and would be torpedoed. After the Lusitania, Germany suspended its unrestricted campaign but resumed two years later. This didn’t bring President Woodrow Wilson to Congress to ask for a declaration of war if not for a German plan to keep the U. S. distracted while Germany still tried to defeat France. The Zimmerman Telegram was critical to the U. S. entering WWI. The Germans knew if the Americans entered the war, they would do so on the side of Great Britain. Therefore, if the U. S. could be kept busy while Germany hammered away at France, Germany could survive longer. So, Berlin contacted its embassy in Mexico City to reach an agreement whereby Germany would give arms, munitions and raw materials to the Mexican government if they agreed to enter on the Kaiser’s side before America could mobilize. The letter even enticed the Mexican government by stating, “after victory you will reclaim Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.” The British Intelligence Service intercepted this and sent it to Washington. Wilson was outraged. He broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, and while speaking of German treachery, asked Congress for a declaration of war.
That same year, Russia ceased to be a monarchy and withdrew from the Great War. The Russian steamroller of 1914 could defeat and force retreat from Austria-Hungary, but Germany was technically and tactically better than Russia. Defeat after defeat at the hands of Germany cost Russia way more than its share of hardships and costs in human life and material. The Germans pushed deeper and deeper into Russia on the Eastern Front, while stalemate prevailed in France and Belgium on the Western Front. Because of the crippling losses and backwardness of Russian military leadership, Czar Nicholas II went to the front to supervise operations against Germany. He would take full responsibility for any loss or victory. During the czar’s absence there were mutinies, bread riots and general unrest in the capitol, Petrograd. On his way back, the czar’s rail car was stopped and the soldiers asked, “for the good of Russia, abdicate your throne.” The czar did and a Provisional Government was established to set up a democracy in the formerly autocratic Russian Empire. The new government was headed by Alexander Kerensky. Kerensky was going to go on with the war as promised to the Allies and this is where Vladimir Lenin is smuggled into Russia from exile in Switzerland. Lenin quickly sets up his Bolshevik party and soviet in Petrograd and begins calling for an end to the war. Using the slogan “Peace, land, & bread,” the Russian people who for so long have endured hardship, rally behind Lenin and overthrow Kerensky’s regime and soon make peace with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In 1914 the vast “kettle” of Europe came to a boiling point, erupting in the Great War. Though there did exist some immediate causes to the war, nationalism, imperialism, and militarism in particular had been brewing for quite some time. The onset of war brought about a type of warfare never seen before, which raged on for nearly four years, but began to end with the withdrawal of Russia from the war.
Nationalism has long been a source of problems in the world, and this was no less true in the years preceding WWI. Beginning with Otto von Bismarck and his unification of Germany by 1871, nationalism fueled many conflicts throughout Europe. The loss of Alsace-Lorraine to the Prussians fueled French hatred of the new German state, and may have contributed to the alliance between traditional rivals, France and Russia. Nationalism would rear its ugly head once again in the Balkans. As the Ottoman Empire continued to weaken its holdings in Europe, the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary in 1908 not only set spark to the nationalist powder keg that was the Serbs (and their desire for an independent, unified Serbian state), but also upset Russia, which viewed itself as the protector of Slavs and Orthodox Christians in the region. Russia also wanted to become the dominant power in the Balkans. Nationalism continued to destabilize the region throught the Balkan Wars in which Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro first captured land from the Ottomans and than fought amongst themselves over how to divide it.
Imperialism also played an important role in bringing about the war. The major powers of Europe scrambled to collect as many new colonies as possible, leading to inevitable tensions, particularly in Africa. In 1904, the Entente Cordiale ended disputes between France and Britain over African colonies, and served at a stepping stone to bring the two powers closer together. In 1905, an act of German imperialism would serve the same purpose. Attempting to gain new territories Germany landed in Morocco in 1905, but, at an international conference a year later in Spain they were rewarded nothing. Again in 1911 Germany set its eyes on Morocco and sent a gun boat to sit off the coast and demand concessions but once again they received nothing. These two Moroccan Crises served to draw France and Britain closer together, in preparation to repel a German invasion in their African colonies.
A climate of militarism also helped precipitate the war. The European powers were locked in a bitter race to mass produce new weaponry, and accumulate huge standing armies. Technology such as the rifling of gun barrels and improved artillery helped fuel the arms race. Countries sought to continuously improve their navies resulting in much greater mobility on a global scale. The institution of “professional armies” or paid soldiers and officers also attributed to the heated race to armament.
The immediate causes of the war can be traced to groups like the syndicalists or more specifically, the Black Hand to which the Archduke Ferdinand’s assassin belonged. The syndicalists’ aim was to cause turmoil by assassinating a country’s leader, this only added to the already high tensions throughout Europe. With the Archduke’s assassination on June 28, 1914 the road to war was set into motion. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and, in turn, Russia (defender of the Slavs) declared war on Austria, so Germany, honoring its alliance with Austria declared war on Russia and France, honoring its alliance with Russia followed suit. The German invasion of Belgium prompted Britain to join the fight and with the Treaty of London (1915), Italy too joined the Allies which promised Italy land after the war.
The Great War differed greatly from any war the world had ever seen. Before its conclusion more people would die than in the 100 years of combined European warfare before it. WWI would come to be known as a total war, in that everyone, civilian & soldier alike were affected. Nations’ entire budgets were devoted to the war effort, politics were suspended. Trench warfare, arising from the use of machine guns and modern artillery, became commonplace, often only several hundred yards separated enemy soldiers. Artillery turned combat into a long-range affair, and poison gas clouded the scarred battlefields.
Eventually, in April 1917 the United States entered the war after U-boats continuously sunk both supply and passenger ships bound for Britain. Due to its late entrance the U. S. had a fairly small role in the war when compared to the European powers. Nonetheless, American industrial power played a role in the victory of the Allied powers.
Also in 1917, V. I. Lenin, a member of the Bolshevik party writes his April Theses which suggests Russia withdraws from the war, and the Soviets (Bolsheviks) take over the tsarist government. Lenin promised bread, land and peace to the upset Russian masses, allowing the Bolsheviks to seize power. With the Bolsheviks in power by November 1917, Russia withdrew from the war accepting the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Germany. This action was the beginning of the end of the Great War.