At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States and Germany emerged as the two most rapidly developing industrial nation-states of the Atlantic world. The elites and intelligentsias of both countries staked out claims to dominance in the twentieth century. In Militarism in a Global Age, Dirk Bonker explores the far-reaching ambitions of naval officers before World War I as they advanced navalism, a particular brand of modern militarism that stressed the paramount importance of sea power as a historical determinant. Aspiring to make their own countries into self-reliant world powers in an age of global empire and commerce, officers viewed the causes of the industrial nation, global influence, elite rule, and naval power as inseparable. Characterized by both transnational exchanges and national competition, the new maritime militarism was techcratic in its impulses; its makers cast themselves as members of a professional elite that served the nation with its expert kwledge of maritime and global affairs. American and German navalist projects differed less in their principal features than in their eventual trajectories. Over time, the pursuits of these projects channeled the two naval elites in different directions as they developed contrasting outlooks on their bids for world power and maritime force. Combining comparative history with transnational and global history, Militarism in a Global Age challenges traditional, exceptionalist assumptions about militarism and national identity in Germany and the United States in its exploration of empire and geopolitics, warfare and military-operational imaginations, state formation and national governance, and expertise and professionalism.
Dirk Bonker is Laverack Family Assistant Professor of History at Duke University.