Spirit of Disillusionment in Europe During 1914-1918

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Analyze the spirit of promise that gave way to disillusionment in Europe during the years 1914-1918.

Prior to the devastation of the first World War, a spirit of optimism and enthusiasm engulfed the minds of citizens across Europe. Relating the potential outcome of another war to the short, decisive, progressive wars in the nineteenth century, Europeans greeted the opportunity for war as a tool to cleanse the current ailments of Europe. The people, blinded by an overwhelming belief in progress and a developing sense of nationalism, failed to foresee that they were heading for disaster. World War I emanated from European leaders' aggression toward other countries, which was supported by the rising nationalism. Economic and imperial competition and fear of war prompted military alliances and an arms race, which further escalated the tension contributing to the outbreak of a war greatly exceeding the lethality of European expectation.

A spirit of nationalism rang high in the atmosphere pre-world war Europe. Many were engrossed by potential benefits war could bring to their lives. Nationalism, however, was not a new idea; at the settlement of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the principle of nationalism was ignored in favor of preserving the peace. Despite the settlement, the principle was rejuvenated by the onset of the World War. The ardent nationalists fussed in masses to champion the need for war. "Patriotic demonstrations had an intoxicating effect and excited the war-mongers to excess..." (Phillip Schneidemanan). Under false aspirations and expectations the naive soldiers marched off to war, unexpectant of the tragedies they would encounter.

In only a few short months, the soldiers realized how false their assumptions were. Nationalism presented itself as a misleading concept rendering the soldiers to a rude awakening. "Oh, God how those men looked, as they came nearer-- those utterly immobile faces under their steel helmets..." The...
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