Nations worth dying for? National identities and the coming of the Great War

A paper delivered at the symposium organized by the World War One Historical Association & the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, 8-9 November 2013

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Historians of the First World War have successfully challenged the notion that that the populations of Europe enthusiastically welcomed the outbreak of the war. While the belligerent populations never fell for the nationalist frenzy that is too often associated with August 1914, their common consent to the war nonetheless accounts for the duration of a conflict of unprecedented scale. To many combatants and civilians, this war was a defensive conflict; a war they had not agitated for, but that they reluctantly consented to see through to its bitter end. This paper will review the evolution of national identity and nationalism in Europe in the decades leading up to 1914. It will emphasize the distinction between national sentiments and nationalism to help explain how national identities were mobilized during the conflict. It will strive to show how the changing relationship between states, empires and their subjects/citizens accounted, to a significant extent, for the resilience of belligerent societies.

For the full programme of the symposium, click here.

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