Honourable Mention: The Nationalist Fleet: Radical Nationalism and The Imperial German Navy from Unification to 1914

Evan Park


In the two decades leading up to World War One, Germany engaged in one of the greatest naval expansions in history, which subsequently produced a lasting antagonism between Germany and Britain. During this period Germany was transformed from a strictly land-based continental military power to a highly competitive and competent sea power. Where the army was steeped in Prussian tradition, the navy was able to shape its identity as a strictly German nationalist organization. This was achieved during a time when colonial ambitions, navalism and Anglophobia were rampant within Germany. It was within this environment where the navy became the defining symbol for the German nation to achieve its “place in the sun.” Manipulative actions by the nations leaders, right-wing agitation groups like the Deutscher Flottenverein (the German Navy League), and the subsequent naval arms race drove Germany to spent over one billion Reichsmark’s on warships that were largely held at anchor over the course of the looming conflict. Ultimately, the expansion of the navy was sidelined by war in 1914, but its failures truly began a decade earlier with the provocation of Britain. The British response forced moderation in Germany’s ship construction plans, which produced widespread criticism of the nation’s leaders and further antagonism with Britain during a time where a potential alliance could have addressed common concerns about the rising power of France and Russia.

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