USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

A Nation's Military

Like the educational system, the military encouraged loyalty and identification with the nation. The first explosion of an “army of the people” came during the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars when the army of volunteers and conscripts fighting for the ideals of the French Nation overwhelmed the combined might of the conservative, monarchical powers until it stalled out in the frozen landscape of a Russian winter in the deadly year 1812. By the late nineteenth century, the power of the citizen soldier was coming of age again. Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, and Austria-Hungary all adopted a policy of conscription in the years following the revolutions of 1848. Soldiers were taught to fight, not as before for the king or empire, but for the glory of the nation, for Germany, France, Italy, etc. and the abstract ideals (cultures or histories) these nations embodied. Groups like the Boy Scouts, founded by Robert Baden-Powell, sought to blend youth education with military culture, reinforcing the twin engines of the era, imperialism and nationalism, through a idealized (and highly romantic) view of imperial conflict, exploration, and war.   

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