The Rise of Nationalism in Europe | Revision Notes

The Rise of Nationalism in Europe | Revision Notes

Rise of Nationalism in Europe

The French Revolution

The French Revolution is regarded as one of the most important events in history. It not only gave a huge setback to monarchy but also gave the first clear expression to the idea of ‘nationalism’. The impact of the revolution in France:

  • The Constitution in France came into existence and citizens were awarded with the rights of liberty and equality.
  • The Estates General was renamed the ‘National Assembly’. Its members were elected by active citizens.
  • Nation now became supreme. Hymns were composed and oaths were taken on the name of the nation. It was regarded as a ‘fatherland’.
  • The administrative system was centralised, and uniform laws were formulated for all citizens.
  • A uniform system of weights and measures was adopted, and internal custom duties and dues were abolished.
  • The French language was made the common language of the people residing in France.
  • The revolutionaries declared their next motive is to help other people of Europe to become nations.

The French Revolution impacted the middle class including professionals and students in many countries such as Switzerland, Holland, Italy and Belgium. They also wanted to throw off the monarchies in the countries and become nations.

Napoleon – Child of the French Revolution

Napoleon Bonaparte is known as the ‘child of the French Revolution’.

The rise of Napoleon marked the rise of monarchy in France. However, Napoleon implemented some revolutionary ideas and principles in France. He did this by taking the following

  • He introduced the Civil Code of 1804, also known as the Napoleonic Code. This Code instituted the principle of equality of all people before the law, right to property was established and all privileges enjoyed by the people of high birth and class were abolished.
  • This Code was also promulgated to other parts of Europe which were controlled by France.
  • In many European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Dutch Republic and Italy, he simplified the administrative machinery, ended the feudal system and liberated the peasants from serfdom.
  • In towns, restrictions imposed on guilds were removed, and transport and communication systems were improved. Businessmen, small industrialists and traders began to realise the importance and advantages of a uniform system of laws.
  • People of other European countries initially welcomed the French armies, but later began to oppose them because of increased taxation and censorship imposed on the people.

The Beginning of Nationalism in Europe

During the mid-eighteenth century, there were no nation states in Europe. Italy, Germany and Switzerland were not one nation but were divided into various kingdoms. Central and eastern Europe was under absolute monarchies. Because of many factors, the idea of nationalism began to emerge in the later half the eighteenth century. These were

  1. Rise of the new middle class: The aristocratic class in Europe was a dominant class, but it comprised only few people. Most of the people in Europe were peasants. The Industrial Revolution resulted in the emergence of the labour or working class. Many small industrialists, businessmen and professionals who formed the middle class gained prominence. These classes supported the abolition of aristocratic privileges, demanded equality and advocated the idea of nationalism.
  2. Liberalism: The middle class stood for ‘liberalism’. Liberalism in political terms stood for equality, freedom, formation and working of government by consent. In the economic field, liberalism advocated the freedom of markets and the abolition of unjust duties on the movement of goods from one territory to the other. This led to the beginning of economic nationalism in Europe which also contributed to the rise of nationalism.
  3. Rise of New Conservatism and its opposition by the people: After the defeat of Napoleon, there was a rise of new conservatism. Conservatives supported the rule of monarchy. Monarchy was restored in France and strengthened in Prussia, Belgium and Austria. Autocratic governments were set up in these countries. This led to the rise of many secret societies in Europe which trained revolutionaries. The aims of these revolutionaries were to fight for liberty, equality and the formation of nation states. The period from 1830 to 1848 is regarded as the Age of Revolutions in Europe. During this period, the revolutionaries limited the power of the monarchy, and the independence of Greece further led to the rise of nationalistic feelings in Europe.
    Women in Europe demanded political rights equal to men and stressed on the principles of liberty and equality for them too.
  4. Cultural movement: Art, painting, poetry, stories and music played an important role in strengthening the feeling of nationalism. Many Romantic artists romanticised human feelings and emotions. This was done to create a common cultural past as the basis of a nation. Stress was laid on vernacular languages and folklore. This gave communities who were living under the control of other powerful nations a cultural identity. For example, the people of Poland who were under Russian control defied the ban on speaking Polish. This was a kind of struggle to overthrow the Russian yolk from their territory and to become an independent nation.
  5. Hunger, hardships and revolts: During the 1830s, many countries in Europe were suffering from economic slowdown. Stiff competition in the arena of industrial production and the hardships of the peasants struggling under the feudal rule led to wide protest movements in many European states. In 1848, there were shortages of food. The number of unemployed people was increasing. Many people in Paris came out on the roads and protested. Similar protests and movements also took place in Germany and in many countries of central and eastern Europe.

All the above factors gave rise to the feeling of nationalism, and people demanded more liberty and equality in society.

Unification of Germany and Italy

Germany and Italy were European nations which were divided into various kingdoms. The unification of Germany and the unification of Italy were important events in world history.

Unification of Germany

  • The newly emerged middle class in Germany in 1848 tried to unite several German kingdoms which were suppressed by monarchies and large landowners into one nation state governed by an elected body.
  • Prussia, a German kingdom, took the leadership in uniting various German states. Otto von Bismarck, the Chief Minister of Prussia, aimed to achieve the goal of unification with the help of the Prussian army and the bureaucracy.
  • Spread over seven years, the Prussian army with the help of the Austrian, French and Danish armies fought three wars and successfully incorporated all the small German kingdoms. This marked the process of completion of German unification.
  • The German unification was completed in 1871 and in the same year William I was declared as the emperor of Germany at the Palace of Versailles. The process of the unification of Germany exhibited the power of the Prussian state. Many new reforms were initiated in banking, currency, administration and judiciary in Germany.

Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck

Unification of Italy

  • Italy was also politically fragmented into various small states which were ruled by monarchies.
  • During the mid-nineteenth century, only the state of Sardinia-Piedmont was ruled by the Italian monarchy. The northern states were under the Austrian monarchy, Central Italy was under the control of the Pope and the states in the south were under the control of the Bourbon kings of Spain.
  • Giuseppe Mazzini was a revolutionary who actively supported the unification of the Italian states. For achieving this aim, he formed a secret society called ‘Young Italy’.
  • The state of Sardinia-Piedmont took the responsibility of fulfilling this task after the failed uprisings in 1831 and 1848. The king of Sardinia-Piedmont, Victor Emmanuel II, was actively helped by his Chief Minister Cavour. Cavour led the process of the unification of Italy.
  • In 1859, the state of Sardinia-Piedmont defeated the Austrians. In 1860, the Italian forces helped by Giuseppe Garibaldi and his volunteers marched into southern Italy and unified it with Italy.
  • King Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed as the king of united Italy. The complete unification of Italy was achieved in 1870.

Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi

Great Britain – A Nation State

  • The transformation of Great Britain into a nation state was not a sudden process. There was no one British nation before the eighteenth century.
  • People residing in the British Isles were mainly English, Welsh, Scots and Irish. These ethnic groups had distinct political and social traditions.
  • As the English nation grew in wealth and power, it began to dominate the other islands.
  • In 1688, the English Parliament seized power from the monarchy. The Parliament passed the Act of Union, 1707, by which England and Scotland were unified resulting in the formation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’.
  • The Parliament was dominated by the English, and the political and cultural identities of the Scots were systematically suppressed. The Catholics in Scotland were brutally suppressed whenever they wanted to regain their independence.
  • Ireland was inhabited by the Protestants and the Catholics. The English supported the Protestants and established their rule with their help and support. Catholics, who constituted a majority in Ireland, revolted against the British on numerous occasions but were suppressed.
  • Ireland forcibly became a part of Britain in 1801. The English language dominated, and both Scotland and Ireland were subordinate to England.

The idea of a nation was expressed in various forms by artists and painters. Most of the nations were portrayed as female figures. The female figure became an allegory of the nation. ‘Marianne’ in France and ‘Germania’ in Germany became allegories of a nation.

Nationalism and Imperialism

  • Nationalism which is the feeling of love for one’s own nation became intense and narrow minded in the mid-nineteenth century. Many nations became intolerant of each other and competed with one another for the control of territories.
  • Imperialism is territorial control of a region or a country by another country by using military control.
  • This feeling of nationalism became intense in the Balkan region. The Balkan region formerly comprised the present-day territories of Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Greece, BosniaHerzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro. The people in these countries were called Slavs.
  • The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the region made the situation very explosive in the region as every state was jealous of one another and hoped to gain independence at the cost of the other.
  • During this time, many powerful European nations such as England, France, Russia and Germany competed to gain control in the Balkan region.
  • This competition for gaining prominence in the region finally led to the First World War in 1914.

Some Important Definitions

  • Absolutism: It is a form of government which is authoritative and dictatorial. It is centralised, militarised and repressive. People have no liberty and freedom.
  • Plebiscite: It is a direct system of voting where all the people residing in a territory are asked to vote to accept or reject the proposal.
  • Suffrage: The right to vote.
  • Conservatism: It is a political philosophy which stresses on the importance of traditions and customs. Conservatives prefer slow and gradual changes rather than quick changes.
  • Allegory: An allegory is an abstract idea which is expressed through a person or a thing. It can be literal or symbolic.