To what extent did militarism contribute to the origins of the First World War (1914–1918)?
Militarism is at the core of the origins of World War I. The concept of militarism is to emphasize on the military aspect of a nation. Although militarism can have advantages and is sometimes a very “typical” trait of a country, it did not prosper during the World War I, as it reinforced the tensions and didn’t leave room for options other than war. The French army along with the German army had doubled between 1870 and 1914, and there was a huge competition between Britain and Germany for the monopolization of the sea. In fact, from 1910 to 1914, Germany had increased military expenditure by 73%, clearly preparing for war. France for example, had a growing pre-war militarism. Victor Hugo proclaimed that “France will have but one thought, to reconstitute her forces, gather her energy, nourish her sacred anger, raise her young generation to form an army of the whole people, to work without cease, to study the methods and skills of our enemies, to become again a great France, the France of 1792, the France of an idea with a sword. Then one day she will be irresistible. Then she will take back Alsace-Lorraine.”
Since 1890, Germany had led an aggressive foreign policy with the aim of expanding Germany’s borders. Fritz Fischer who is a German historian with a reputation for analyzing the causes of the World War, has a thesis in which he depicts the aggressiveness of Germany’s government. He attributes the aggression of Germany under the reign of Wilhelm II to the government’s motivation to re-establish its support among Germans. From 1912, since the meeting of the German Council of War, they wanted to go to war as soon as possible.
The Kruger telegram was another factor that greatly increased the tension between Britain and Germany. It consisted in Kaiser Wilhelm II sending a telegram to Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (President of the Transvaal Republic) to congratulate him on stopping the Jameson Raid. The British were trying to incite an uprising amongst the primarily British workers but failed. The telegram sent by the Kaiser was brought up in both the British and German press, the British resentment towards Germany only grew and the German population praised the telegram. The British South Africa Company paid almost £1 million in compensation to the Tansvaal Republic to ease the tensions, but the tension between Germany and Britain only grew stronger.