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It is a belief system which instills a
sense of common identity among the
members of a nation. National flag,
national symbol, national anthem, etc.
play an important role in developing and
strengthening the idea of nationalism.

Rise of Nationalism in Europe

Before the middle of the nineteenth century, the countries in
Europe were not in the form as we know them today.
Different regions in Europe were ruled by various multinational dynastic empires. These were monarchies which
enjoyed absolute power over their subjects. Various
technological and the ensuing social changes helped in
developing the ideas of nationalism. The process of creation
of nation states began in 1789; with the French Revolution.
It took about hundred years for the idea to gain concrete
shape which resulted in the formation of France as a
democratic nation state. The trend was followed in other
parts of the Europe and led to the establishment of the
modern democratic systems in most parts of the world; at
the beginning of 20th century.

French Revolution
First Expression of Nationalism: French Revolution led to a
change in politics and constitution of France. In 1789 the
power was transferred from monarchy to a body of citizens.
It was proclaimed that henceforth the French people would
shape the destiny of their country.

Creating a sense of Nationhood

Various steps were taken by the revolutionaries to create a
sense of common identity among people. Some of these steps
are given below:
The idea of the fatherland and citizen was created to

emphasize a community which enjoyed equal rights under

the constitution.
The royal standard was replaced with a new French flag; the
The Estates General was elected by the body of active
citizens and it was renamed as the National Assembly.
In the name of nation; new hymns were composed and oaths
were taken.
Martyrs were commemorated.
A centralized administrative system was created which
formulated uniform laws for all citizens.
Internal custom duties were abolished.
A uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.
Regional dialects were discouraged and French language
was promoted as the common language of the nation.
The revolutionaries also declared that it was the mission and
destiny of French people to liberate the people of Europe
from despotism and help other regions of Europe in
becoming nations.

Napoleon was the Emperor of France from 1804 to 1815.
Although Napoleon destroyed democracy in France by
reintroducing monarchy in France; but he made
revolutionary changes in the field of administration. The
idea was to make the system more rational and efficient. The
Civil Code of 1804; which is commonly known as the
Napoleonic Code abolished all privileges based on birth. It

also established equality before the law and secured the right
to property. Even in those territories which came under his
control; Napoleon began to introduce many reforms as he
did in France. He simplified the administrative divisions in
the Dutch Republic, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. He
abolished the feudal system and peasants could be freed
from serfdom and manorial dues. Guild restrictions were
removed in towns. Transport and communication systems
were improved.

Reaction of People
Peasants, artisans, workers and new businessmen enjoyed
this new found freedom. They could realize that uniform
laws and standard system of weights and measures and a
common currency would be more helpful in movement and
exchange of goods and capital across various regions.
But in areas which were conquered by France, peoples
reactions towards French rule were mixed. Initially, the
French armies were seen as the torchbearers of liberty. But
very soon people could realize that the new administrative
system was not going to guarantee political freedom.
Increase in taxes, censorship and forced conscription into
the French armies were seen as outweighing the advantages
of administrative changes which Napoleon brought. Thus
the initial enthusiasm of people began to turn into hostility.

Situation before Revolution

In the mid-eighteenth-century Europe there were no nationstates as we know them today. Modern day Germany, Italy
and Switzerland were divided into kingdoms, duchies and
cantons. Their rulers had their own autonomous territories.
Diverse people lived under autocratic monarchies of Eastern
and Central Europe. The people did not share a collective
identity. The region was full of people from different ethnic
groups who spoke different languages. The only binding
factor among the people was their allegiance to a common

Causes and Process of Emergence of Nation

Socially and politically, a landed aristocracy was the
dominant class on the continent. The members of this class
were united by a common way of life that cut across regional
divisions. They owned estates in the countryside and also
town-houses. They spoke French for purposes of diplomacy
and in high society. Their families were often connected by
ties of marriage. This powerful aristocracy was, however,
numerically a small group. The majority of the population
was made up of the peasantry. To the west, the bulk of the
land was framed by tenants and small owners, while in
Eastern and Central Europe the pattern of landholding was
characterized by vast estates which were cultivated by serfs

New Middle Class

In Western and parts of Central Europe industrial
production and trade grew. This led to the growth of towns
where new commercial classes emerged. The existence of this
new class was based on production for the market. New
social groups came into existence. A working class
population and a middle class (which was composed of
industrialists, businessmen and professionals) made the new
social groups. It was this class which shaped the ideas of
national unity.

Idea of Liberal Nationalism

Ideas of national unity in early-nineteenth-century Europe
were closely allied to the ideology of liberalism. For the new
middle classes; freedom for the individual and equality of all
before the law were the bases of idea of liberalism. From the
political perspective, the idea of liberalism emphasized the
concept of government by consent. Liberalism also meant an
end of autocracy and clerical privileges. Further, it meant
the need of a constitution and a representative government.
Inviolability of private property was also emphasized by the
nineteenth century liberals.
Universal suffrage was yet to become a reality in France.
During the earlier period of revolution, only propertyowning men had the right to vote. For a brief period during
the Jacobins, all adult males got the voting right. However,
Napoleonic Code reverted to the earlier system of limited

suffrage. During the rule of Napoleon, women were

accorded the status of minor; subject to authority of father
and husband. The struggle for voting rights for women and
non-propertied men continued throughout the nineteenth
and early twentieth century.

Liberalization in economic
Economic liberalization was another hallmark of the
Napoleonic Code. The emerging middle class was also in
favor of economic liberalization. Let us take example of
German-speaking regions in the first half of nineteenth
century. There were 39 states in this region which were
further divided into many principalities. Each principality
had its own currency and its own units of measurement. If a
merchant travelled from Hamburg to Nuremberg; he had to
pass through 11 customs barriers and pay a custom duty of
about 5% at each barrier. Custom duty had to be paid
according to weight and measure. Wide difference in units of
weight and measurement created further confusion. The
conditions were not at all business friendly and served as
obstacles to economic activities. The new commercial class
was demanding a unified economic territory so that there
could be unhindered movement of goods, people and capital.
In 1834, a customs union or zollverein was formed; at the
initiative of Prussia and was joined by most of the German
states. Tariff barriers were abolished and the number of
currencies was reduced from thirty to two. Development of a

railways network further enhanced mobility. This created

some sort of economic nationalism which helped in
strengthening the national sentiments which were growing at
that time.

A New Conservatism After

Napoleon was defeated in 1815 by the combined power of Britain,
Russia, Prussia and Austria. After the defeat of Napoleon,
European governments wanted to follow conservatism. The
conservatives believed that established, traditional institutions of
state and society should be preserved. They believed in preserving
the monarchy, the Church, social hierarchies, property and the
family. But most of them also wanted to retain the modernization
which Napoleon carried out in the spheres of administration. The
conservatives believed that modernization would strengthen
traditional institutions. It was believed that a modern army, an
efficient bureaucracy, a dynamic economy, the abolition of
feudalism and serfdom could strengthen the monarchies of

The Treaty of Vienna

The representatives of the European powers (Britain,

Russia, Prussia and Austria) met at Vienna in 1815 to draw
up a settlement of Europe. The Austrian Chancellor Duke
Metternich was the host of the Congress. The Treaty of
Vienna of 1815 was drawn up at this meeting. Its objective
was to undo most of the changes which had come in Europe
during the Napoleonic wars. Some of the steps taken
according the Treaty of Vienna are follows:
The Bourbon dynasty, which had been deposed during the
French Revolution, was restored to power.
A series of states were set up on the boundaries of France to
prevent French expansion in future. For example; the
kingdom of the Netherlands was set up in the north.
Similarly, Genoa was added to Piedmont in the south.
Prussia got some important territories on its western
frontiers and Austria got control of northern Italy.
German confederation of 39 states which had been set up by
Napoleon was left untouched.
In the east, Russia was given part of Poland, while Prussia
was given a portion of Saxony.

After the events of 1815, many liberal nationalists went
underground for the fear of repression.
Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian revolutionary. He was born
in 1807. He became a member of the secret society of the
Carbonari. When he was 24 years old, he was sent into exile
in 1831 for attempting a revolution in Liguria. After that, he
founded two more underground societies; first Young Italy

in Marseilles and then Young Europe in Berne. Mazzini

believed that God had intended nations to be the natural
units of mankind. So Italy had to be forged into a single
unified republic instead of being a patchwork of small state
kingdoms. Following in the footsteps of Mazzini, many
secret societies were set up Germany, France, Switzerland
and Poland. The Conservatives feared Mazzini.
While the conservative regimes were trying to consolidate
their power, the liberals and nationalists continued to spread
the idea of revolution. These people belonged to the educated
middle-class elite; like professors, school teachers, clerks
and members of the commercial middle classes.
The first upheaval took place in France in July 1830. The
Bourbon kings were overthrown by liberal revolutionaries.
A constitutional monarchy was installed with Louis Philippe
at its head. The July Revolution sparked an uprising in
Brussels which resulted in Belgium breaking away from the
United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Hunger, Hardship and Popular Revolt

The 1830s were years of great economic hardship in Europe.
There was huge growth in population in the first half of the
nineteenth century. Number of unemployed had increased
manifold. There was large scale migration from rural areas to
urban areas. Such migrants lived in overcrowded slums in the
cities. At that time, the industrialization in England was more
advanced than in other parts of Europe. Hence, cheap machinemade goods from England gave stiff competition to small
producers in the towns of the other European countries. In some

regions of Europe, aristocracy was still powerful and the

peasants were under the burden of feudal dues and obligations.
A year of bad harvest; coupled with price rise in food led to
pauperism in town and country.

The year 1848 was one such bad year. Because of shortage of
food and high level of unemployment, the people of Paris came
out on the roads. The protest was at such a large scale that Louis
Philippe had to flee. A National Assembly proclaimed a
republic. It granted suffrage to all adult males above 21. It
guaranteed the right to work. National workshops were set up to
provide employment.

When the revolts of the poor took place in 1848, another
revolution was being led by the educated middle classes. In
some other parts of Europe, independent nation-states did
not yet exist, e.g. Germany, Italy, Poland and the AustroHungarian Empire. Men and women of the liberal middle
classes from these parts raised demands for national
unification and a constitution. They demanded the creation
of a nation-state on parliamentary principles. They wanted a
constitution, freedom of press and freedom of association.

Frankfurt Parliament
In German regions, there were a large number of political
associations whose members were middle class professionals,
businessmen and prosperous artisans. They came together in the
city of Frankfurt and decided to vote for an all-German National
Assembly. On18 May 1848, 831 elected representatives took out a

festive procession to take part in the Frankfurt parliament which

was convened in the Church of St. Paul. They drafted a
constitution for a German nation. This German nation was to be
headed by a monarchy subject to a parliament. Friedrich
Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia was offered the crown on these
terms. But he rejected the offer and joined other monarchs to
oppose the elected assembly.
The opposition of the aristocracy and military to the parliament
grew stronger. Meanwhile, the social base of the parliament
eroded because it was dominated by the middle classes. The
middle class resisted the demands of workers and artisans and
thus lost their support. Finally, troops were called in and the
assembly was forced to disband.
Women also participated in large numbers in the liberal
movement. In spite of that, they were denied the voting rights
during the election of the Assembly. When the Frankfurt
parliament convened in the Church of St Paul, women were
allowed only as observers to stand in the visitors gallery.
Although the liberal movements were suppressed by the
conservative forces but the old order could not be restored. In the
years after 1848, the monarchs began to realize that granting
concessions to the liberal-nationalist revolutionaries was the only
way to end the cycle of revolution and repression. Hence, the
monarchies of Central and Eastern Europe began to introduce
changes which had already taken place in Western Europe before
Serfdom and bonded labor was abolished both in the Habsburg
dominions and in Russia. The Habsburg rulers granted more
autonomy to the Hungarians in 1867

Unification of Italy

Italy also had a long history of political fragmentation. There

were many dynastic states and the multi-national Habsburg
Empire in Italy. During the middle of the nineteenth century,
Italy was divided into seven states. Out of them, only SardiniaPiedmont was ruled by an Italian princely house. The north was
under Austrian Habsburgs, the centre was under the Pope and
the southern regions were under the domination of the Bourbon
kings of Spain. The Italian language had yet to acquire a
common form and it still had many regional and local
During the 1830s, Giuseppe Mazzini planned to put together a
programmed for a unitary Italian Republic. The failure of
revolutionary uprisings both in 1831 and 1848 meant that the
mantle now fell on Sardinia-Piedmont under its ruler King
Victor Emmanuel II. The ruling elites of this region saw the
possibility of economic development and political dominance
through a unified Italy. Chief Minister Cavour led the movement
to unify the regions of Italy. He was neither a revolutionary nor
a democrat. He was like many other wealthy and educated
members of the Italian elite. He too was more fluent in French
than in Italian. He made a tactful diplomatic alliance with
France and thus succeeded in defeating the Austrian forces in
1859. Apart from regular troops, many armed volunteers under
the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the fray. In 1860,
they marched into South Italy and the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilians. They succeeded in winning the support of the local
peasants and drove out the Spanish rulers. Victor Emmanuel II
was proclaimed king of united Italy in 1861. But a large number
of the Italian population remained blissfully unaware of liberalnationalist ideology; probably because of very high level of

Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck; the chief minister of Prussia, was the architect of
this process. He took the help of the Prussian army and bureaucracy in
his endeavor. Three wars were fought over seven years; with Austria,
Denmark and France. The wars ended in Prussian victory and
completed the process of unification. The Prussian king, William I
was proclaimed the German Emperor in a ceremony held at Versailles
in January 1871.
The new state placed a strong emphasis on modernizing the currency,
banking, legal and judicial systems in Germany. Prussian measures
and practices often became a model for the rest of Germany.

Though Germany as we know it today was nominally united under an

imperial crown for almost a millennium, in reality the German lands
were composed of approximately 300 individual principalities and
city-states that largely operated in independence of one another.
Though certain powers dominated different parts of the German lands
throughout the Holy Roman Empire's history, it was not until the 17th
century that early modern Germany's two greatest powers,
Prussia and Austria, began to expand and incorporate more and more
German territory under their respective flags. In the early 19th
century, Napoleon's conquest of the German lands ended the Holy
Roman Empire. After Napoleon's defeat, the German states created
the loosely-associated German Confederation in 1815, containing all
territories of the former Empire with majority German speakers.
Power within the Confederation was dominated by Prussia and

Bismarck and Early Nationalism

The creation of the German Confederation in 1815 was largely in
reaction to the growing sense of German nationalism, which had
not existed in Europe prior to the 19th century. While strains of
nationalism certainly existed before the turn of the century, it was
France's conquest of the German lands in the first decade of the
19th century that first fully aroused German nationalists into
proposing a unified, German state. Indeed, J.G.
Fichte's Addresses to the German Nation, given in Berlin in 1808,
called on Germans to unite under their common language and
Perhaps no other statesman was in such a fine position to make
this dream a reality as the Chancellor of Prussia during the mid19th century, Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck was a fervent
German nationalist who wanted a German nation, but specifically
one dominated by his Prussia. As a result, once appointed,
Chancellor Bismarck set out to strengthen and improve the
Prussian army and gain international allies that would help
Prussia on its way to unifying Germany.
After gaining the Chancellorship in 1862, Bismarck began
improving Prussia's diplomatic position to ensure Prussia's
dominance over Austria. In 1863, when Russia experienced a
revolt in its Polish territory, Bismarck and Prussia supported
Russia in its violent suppression of the rebellion. This endeared
Prussia to Russia, who was traditionally an ally of Prussia's
German rival, Austria.

Whereas Camillo di Cavour directed Italian unification, a Junker

(the Prussian name for an aristocratic landowner from old
Prussia in the east) named Otto von Bismarck pushed German
unification through "blood and iron" and skillful understanding
of realpolitik. As the map of central Europe stood in 1850, Prussia
competed with Austria for dominance over a series of small
principalities fiercely keen on maintaining their independence

and distinctive characteristics. Prussia proper stretched from

modern-day Lithuania to central Germany. Prussia also
controlled the German lands around the Rhine River in the west.
In between, from Denmark to Switzerland, lay small provinces
that Bismarck needed to incorporate under the Prussian crown to
create a viable German Empire.
In 1862, Bismarck reorganized the Prussian army and improved
training in preparation for war. In 1864, he constructed an
alliance with Austria to fight Denmark over Denmark's southern
provinces of Schleswig and Holstein. Prussia received Schleswig
while Austria administered Holstein. That situation, however,
could not stand for long, as Austrian Holstein was now
surrounded by Prussian lands. Bismarck provoked a conflict with
Austria over an unrelated border dispute and in the subsequent
Seven Weeks' War--named for its brevity--Prussia crushed the
collapsing Austrian army. The peace settlement transferred
Holstein to Prussia and forced Austria to officially remove itself
from all German affairs.
With Austria out of Bismarck's way, his next obstacle was the
skepticism of the southern provinces. Overwhelmingly Catholic
and anti-militaristic, the southern provinces doubted Prussia's
commitment to a united Germany of all provinces. Prussia's
Protestantism and historic militarism made the gulf between
north and south quite serious. Therefore, Bismarck turned to real
politic to unite the Germanic provinces by constructing a war
against a common enemy. In 1870, Bismarck forged a note from
the French ambassador, implying that the ambassador had
insulted the Prussian king. After he leaked this letter to both
populations, the people of France and Prussia, roused by
nationalist sentiment, rose up in favor of war. As Bismarck hoped,
the southern provinces rallied to Prussia's side without any

hesitation. In July 1870, France declared war on Prussia. Within a

matter of weeks of fighting in Alsace-Lorraine, France lost this
Franco-Prussian War. Alsace-Lorraine was transferred to
Germany in the peace settlement, allowing Prussia to declare the
German Empire, or Second Reich, on January 21, 1871.