What Role Did Militarism Play in Starting World War I?


Militarism led to the increase of weapon manufacturing, and it had a pervasive influence on many European governments where military elites commonly held great power and control over political decisions. Military officers became their own de facto government officials, exercising significant steering in policy decisions, including those that led to the escalations that gave rise to World War I.

This culture of militarism was directly associated with a rise in arms technology. New technologies allowed weapons and munitions to be manufactured on a massive scale. Nations began to compete with one another over their military supremacy. From 1900 to 1914 in particular, military spending in Europe skyrocketed.

The culture of militarism was especially prevalent in Germany. Formed from the existing Prussian forces, the new German army was led by a few elite Prussian aristocrats referred to as "Junkers." Prussia had one of the most impressive military presences in the world, and this emphasis on militaristic values carried over to Germany in 1871, when the Prussian army became the core of Germany's military resources.

Furthermore, other governments ensured that the military was seen as being subservient to the powers of the government. However, the Reichstag in Germany was the civilian-elected Parliament, and it had minimal influence over military decisions. Because of this, the government was entrenched wholly in military values.

In the years leading up to World War I, weapon technology became far more deadly. Artillery, machine guns, barbed wire, poisonous gases and naval ships became far more effective and were mass-produced. As Germany made huge increases in its defense spending and army-building, opposing European powers, like France and Great Britain, followed suit. This directly influenced the events leading to the beginning of World War I.