History of Nationalism
Nationalism generally means the devotion that people have for cultures of their nations. Every nation has a culture, which connects its members. It also refers to the belief of ones country’s ideas being superior to others. People show nationalism when they emphasize the laws of their land. It can be referred to as patriotism since it is the devotion of people to the values of their nation. Many historians say that French revolutions in Europe were the origin of nationalism (Keitner 12). It began in early nineteenth century. The united France had conquered many European territories. These nations started fighting for their freedom, which saw them start uniting against the French. This was the birth of nationalism, where ethnic communities wanted to rule themselves as a nation
Nationalism was not there until 18th century, rather, it has evolved with time and has been triggered by events and circumstances. In the days before nationalism, people would be royal to the king or cities that they resided in. They did not see any need to associate themselves with a nation. Nationalism came later due to desired interest of subjected people to be free. Subjected Communities started believing that people of the same culture and language should belong to their own nation that they pay loyalty to. This lead to revolutions in Europe as these subjected communities perused their independence. This was one kind of nationalism in Europe (Keitner 33).
The idea of one nation imposing its ideas on another was the other kind of nationalism portrayed by Germany. Some nations that were already independent and united felt that they should impose their cultures on other communities. One good example of this was Germany in 1870, when she became united and wanted to form alliances. In later 1890s, she became aggressive and wanted to impose her power on other parts of the world. This caused her major problems with other powerful nations in Europe (Duicker 533).
Among the forces that led to nationalism, increased population was one. The monarchical way of rule was faced with a major problem of ruling the increased population. Urban areas grew and other communities that came were not welcomed well. This led to political instability. Another trigger was more ordinary people becoming enlightened meant that they would seek liberation. The evolution of communication was another factor that contributed to sharing of information and ideas among communities (Duicker 520).
Nationalism has many characteristics, which presents in many different ways. One characteristic is the high regard of one’s country. Many people today regard their nations as superior to others. This shows a connection between a person and his country. This suggests that a nationalist will always consider his country first before any other country or individual. People who are nationalists will do anything for their nation without considering personal benefits. This is demonstrated by many freedom fighters who thought of their nations before their own lives. Africa has good examples, such as Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Martin Luther king Junior was a nationalist of liberalism, where he wanted to liberate blacks in America. Nationalists aim at liberating their nation from dynamics that hinder its prosperity and independence.
Another characteristic of nationalism or nationalists is the desire to develop their nation. Many nationalists aspire to see their nations develop economically and socially. An economically powerful nation is considered superior. Take for example the developed nations and those developing; it is obvious that the developed countries of west are regarded as superior to poor nations in Africa. Socially weak nations may not develop if its people who can enhance development are not empowered.
Pledging loyalty and high regard to the country’s laws and guiding principles characterizes nationalism. Laws and guiding principles of a country are its defining objects. This is what makes the nation distinct from another. Nationalists adhere to these rules since they are aware that these rules are for a smooth continuity of their nation. In addition, ensuring that the country’s stream of laws, ideas, harmony, and prosperity are maintained is a characteristic that suggests that nationalists have a duty to not only to love their nation, but also to participate in building it, which is the meaning of nationalism.
As explained above, nationalists would do almost anything to see the flourishing of their nations. This nationalism led to many difficult times to the three empires. Prussian, which is current German, encountered many problems due to nationalism. Prussia was used to the traditional way of leadership. Due to increasing nationalism, Prussia faced problems of economic factors such as population growth, urbanization, and industrialization. The increasing population in Prussia needed more supplies and their trade was going down. Liberalization meant people owning properties and leading their life with democracy. Many ideologies spread across Prussia and posed a great problem. This was caused by the many states that were in Prussia and Germany. Unification of this states proved to be difficult to the nationalistic leaders. Nationalism was important for economic development and unification but also served in pulling states farther away from each other.
Nationalism in Austria developed the same way as the other central European empires. Nationalism caused a major difficulty in this empire because of the many ethnic states that formed it. Each state wanted to have freedom and recognition as independent states. This was a major cause of conflicts and instabilities among the states. The rulers were posed with a great problem from the minority states such as Magyars in the Hungarian part. The Magyars fought for nationalistic recognition and independence from the empire, which was a big problem to the empire in 1848.
Just as the other empires, Russia sought unification as a nation, which caused conflict among nationalities in the empire. Just as the others, each culture wanted to be independent. Despite its power and size, nationalistic issues slowed down economic development. In general, there were many similar difficulties caused by nationalism in these empires. The major problem was the diversity of the ethnic nationalistic states in these empires. However, there were differences since some nations were favored by nationalism while to others; it was a setback to their peace. Germany was more successful than the other two empires.
In the development of nationalism, romanticism and liberalism played a great role to ensure that it developed. Liberalism is described as being free or independent to control one’s life. Before nationalism, authoritative leaders ruled people. When people started feeling that a man should have freedom to own property and do trade as he or she wished, started to create a feeling of nationalism where one community should have its ideologies. This is when people came together to fight against the French rule to be free or liberated. Transformation of communication enabled organization of festivals where nationalistic speeches were held since liberalization had allowed freedom of speech.
Romanticism is the use of arts to connect feelings with work. Romanticism arose from communities who were colonized by the dominant nations such as the French. They reacted to this rule using revolutions and as people became more enlightened, the artists; musicians, poets, and philosophers, started addressing this issue in their work. Poets composed material that contained nationalism messages. The romantic poets and writers played a great role in developing nationalism by helping their people make a distinction of their own culture and ways from other communities. This affiliated people to their own culture, and developed more affection for their culture that improved nationalism. In Germany, Goethe inspired many young people through his novel “the sorrows of young weather” in 1774. During this time, Germany was split in many states. His work was read by many people across the states and had an influence in developing unity between the states, which bore nationalism.
Many people came to believe that people speaking one language with one culture are one, and should be left alone to rule themselves, in their own land. Farther, they came to appreciate that individuals should develop themselves in accordance with the culture of their nation because in turn, they will be developing their own nation. People’s feelings of harmony and togetherness, were increased by Romanticism in music, poems, and literature, which later brought most states together for unification in Germany (Delanty 22).
From history of the three empires, it is evident that nationalism has evolved gradually from events of the time. Revolution can be said to be the major trigger of nationalism. There were several activities and ideologies behind nationalism development such as the liberal ideas and romanticism, events such as struggle for unification and independence of minority nationalities. Nationalism had many effects to the empires economically, politically and socially.
In the modern history, nationalism has been a cause of conflicts among countries since globalization suggests unity among nations, which is not easy to have due to the diversity of nationalities. The conflicts are mostly economic and political. Believing of one’s nation to be superior to another in the modern society could raise many reactions across the world because of intensity of current communication technology. Unnecessary wars can arise from nationalistic ideas, which are a cause for differences. The above history proves that nationalism, in modern society, should be avoided since only Germany, where Prussia was, managed unification through nationalism. The other empires faced more problems than its benefits. Historians have criticized (Delanty 10).
Delanty, Gerard and Krishan Kumar. The SAGE handbook of nations and nationalism. Philadelphia, PA: Sage, 2006. Print.
Duiker, William and Jackson Spielvogel. World History. Volume 1. Stratford, Canada: Cengage Learning, 2006. Print.
Keitner, Chimène. The paradoxes of nationalism. Albany, NY: Suny Press, 2007. Print
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