CBSE NCERT Class X (10th) | Social Studies | History


The Rise of Nationalism in Europe

Nationalism is a sense of identity with the nation. Many European nations experienced heightened periods of nationalism in the 19th century.

Nationalism in Europe can be traced back to the decline of feudalism and the beginning of the Renaissance. The renaissance in Europe fostered new political ideas.

The concepts of liberty, equality, Fraternity and nationalism dominated the social and political scene of Europe in the 19th century.

During the nineteenth century, nationalism emerged as a force which brought about sweeping changes in the political and mental world of Europe.

Utopian vision refers to a vision of a society that is so ideal that it is unlikely to actually exist.
Absolutism refers to a system of rule with a lot of uncontrolled power an oppressive monarchial government.

A plebiscite is a direct vote by which the people of a region are asked to accept or reject a proposal.

The end result of these changes was the emergence of the nation-state in place of the multi-national dynastic empires of Europe.

French Revolution

The French Revolution in 1789 was an influential event that marked the age of revolutions in Europe. The major outcome of the revolution was the formation of a constitutional monarchy and a sizeable reduction in the royal and feudal privileges.

It paved the way for the achievement of bigger goals of national identity and national pride, which can be aptly called nationalism.

The revolutionaries referred to France as la patrie or the fatherland, where all citizens, known as le citoyen, enjoyed equal rights under the constitution. The revolutionaries tried to establish a collective French identity for the people by adopting French flag, composing nationalistic songs and hymns, discouraging the use of regional dialects and adopting French as the common language of France.

The French Revolution had its impact on the administration as well.
  • A body of active citizens, elected the Estates General and renamed it the National Assembly.
  • A centralised administrative system was created formulating uniform laws for all French citizens.
  • All internal custom duties and dues were abolished.
  • A uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.

The metric system was founded by France in 1791. The French revolutionaries also took it upon themselves to help other European countries to overcome autocracy and form nations. The French armies were welcomed by European countries like Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy in the 1790s.

After the French Revolution emerged a famous historic personality and warrior, Napoleon Bonaparte. He introduced several effective administrative changes like the civil code of 1804 introduced by Napoleon also known as the Napoleonic code.

As per this code:
  • The privileges enjoyed by the noblemen and clergy on the basis of birth were abolished.
  • Equality before law and the right to property was secured.
  • The feudal system was abolished and the peasants were freed from serfdom and the payment of dues to the manor owner.
  • The businessmen and small producers of goods felt that uniform laws, standardised weights and a common national currency could facilitate free trade across Europe.
  • Guild restrictions were removed and transport and communication systems were improved.

The countries under the French rule soon realised that their political freedom that had been lost.
Higher taxes, forced enrolment of people into the French army and censorship overshadowed the positive administrative changes brought about by Napoleon, and led to his downfall.

Advent of Liberalism in Europe

During the mid-18th century, Europe was divided into several small kingdoms and principalities. The concept of nation states did not exist at all. People with diverse ethnic groups lived in eastern and central Europe.

The prominent empires in Europe were the autocratic Ottoman Empire that ruled over eastern and central Europe, and Greece and the Habsburg Empire that ruled over Austria-Hungary. People residing in the Habsburg Empire spoke different dialects and did not share a collective past. The difference in cultural background and the desire to use the ideas of the French Revolution led people towards a common goal –nationalism. During the 19th century, the landed aristocracy was a small but influential class in Europe and dominated both the social and political spheres.

Members of this class, in Europe, were connected to each other because of their similar way of life and inter-marriages. They owned large estates in the country side and town houses.

French was a common language spoken by them for diplomacy and high society. A majority of the European population was made up of peasants and serfs. In western Europe, most of the land was tilled by tenants and small owners, while in central and eastern Europe, estates were cultivated by serfs. With industrialisation in the late 18th and 19th centuries, new social groups came into existence i.e. the working class and the middle class.

The middle class had a free-thinking liberal mindset and the ideas of nationalism led them towards bridging the gap between aristocracy and other classes. They wanted to end the autocratic rule and form a national government of the people. The word liberalism traces its roots to the Latin word ‘liber,’ meaning free. The concept of liberalism was born in the middle class.

The middle class believed in the need for freedom and equality of all individuals before law. Although liberalism popularised the idea of a people’s government, the right to vote or suffrage was not extended to all citizens. In France, women were given the status of a minor and subjugated to the authority of men.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, women and non-propertied men organised protests and movements demanding equal rights. Liberalism implied freedom of markets, and free movement of goods and capital. The Napoleonic Code, though revolutionary for its time, was unable to address the growing needs of the industrialists.

In 1834, a customs union, or ‘Zollverein,’ was formed at the initiative of Prussia and joined by most of the German states. This union eliminated tariff barriers and reduced the number of currencies from over 30, to 2. A railway network was initiated, which enhanced mobility and communication between the economies.

Rise of Conservatism and Revolutionaries

The middle class believed in freedom and equality of all individuals before law. Liberalism was used by to end aristocracy and clerical privileges. After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, the European government adopted the idea of conservatism.

Conservatism was a political philosophy that stressed the importance of tradition, established institutions and customs, and preferred gradual development than quick change.

Conservatives firmly believed that the aristocratic monarchies of Europe could gain a lot from a modern army, an efficient bureaucracy, a dynamic economy, and the abolition of feudalism and serfdom. In 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon, the representatives of European powers, namely Austria, Britain, Prussia and Russia, met at Vienna. This meeting is also known as the Treaty or Congress of Vienna. The chief architect and host of this treaty was the Austrian Chancellor, Duke Metternich.

The purpose of this treaty was to undo all the territorial changes taken place during the Napoleonic wars and create a new conservative order in Europe.
  • The Bourbon dynasty was restored to power.
  • France lost most of the territories it had gained during Napoleon’s time.  To prevent the expansion of France in the future, certain states were set up along the boundaries of France.
  • The German confederation of 39 states set up by Napoleon was not touched at all during this division.
  • The kingdom of the Netherlands, including Belgium, was set up in the north of France.
  • Genoa was added to Piedmont in the south of France.
  • Russia was given a part of Poland, while Prussia was given a portion of Saxony.

The conservative regimes set up through the treaty of Vienna in 1815 were autocratic in nature. They tried to curb the freedom of expression and imposed censorship laws on newspapers, books, plays and songs as they championed freedom. The liberals were not happy with the autocratic ways of the conservatives and raised their voice against the censorship of the press and the autocratic monarchical structures.

After 1815, several liberals began working in secret societies all over Europe to propagate their views and train revolutionaries. Revolutionaries were seen as a threat to the restored monarchies, and hence, were repressed.

Giuseppe Mazzini, a famous Italian revolutionary was born in 1807 in Genoa. He was part of a secret society called Carbonari and founded two underground societies called Young Italy in Marseilles, and Young Europe in Berne.

In 1831, Mazzini was sent into exile for attempting a revolution in Liguria. Mazzini believed in the unification of the small kingdoms and principalities in Italy. These societies were joined by like-minded young men from Poland, France, Italy, and the German states

Age of Revolutions [1830 To 1848]

The period between 1830 and 1848 was marked by a lot of tensions and turmoil in Europe. Europe had witnessed the dramatic rise of two philosophies, liberalism and conservatism. The liberal nationalists or the educated middle class planned ways to overthrow monarchy and bring in a government of the people. Europe hence saw a series of revolutions in Italy, Germany, Poland, Turkey and Ireland.

In 1821 in the Greek war of independence, the Greeks began a nationalist movement. Several poets (Lord Byron) and artists supported the Greek war against the Ottoman Empire. After the war, the Treaty of Constantinople was signed in 1832 and recognized Greece as an independent nation.

In 1830 the Bourbon dynasty, restored in 1815 during the conservatives’ reaction, was overthrown by liberal revolutionaries. The French revolution of 1830 is also known as the July Revolution.

In the 19th century, art, culture and literature helped in instilling the feeling of nationalism and also infusing the idea of a nation. After the French revolution, there was rise of a literary and cultural movement called romanticism, which sought to develop nationalist sentiment. This national sentiment was mobilised by artists by using the common language, or vernacular, and popular folk arts that people understood and identified with.

Writers, poets, painters and musicians of the romantic era stressed on individualism, nationalism, feeling, imagination and emotion as opposed to reason and science.

German romantic philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder stressed that true German culture could be found in folklore and folk art, of the common people. In Poland, nationalist feelings were kept alive through music and language.

The Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in Germany.  They collected German folktales and popularized German.

The years after 1830 were marked by a lot of anarchy and chaos. Europe witnessed the worst period of hunger and hardship. Bad harvest and a rise in food prices added to people’s woes.

In the first half of the 19th century, the population of Europe had increased a lot. This led to unemployment. Many people migrated from the rural areas to the growing slums in the cities.

Small producers in towns faced stiff competition from cheap machine-made goods in England. In certain regions of Europe, aristocracy and feudalism still prevailed. In 1845 the Silesian weavers revolted against their contractors. In France, food shortage led to the peasants’ uprising in 1848.

Revolutions of Liberals and Women

The history of Europe between 1830 and 1848 is lined with many revolts and uprisings. An ideology is a system of ideas reflecting a particular social and political vision. In Germany, Italy, Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, men and women of the liberal middle class began demanding a constitution, and national unification.

In Germany, many political associations from the middle and working class came together in Frankfurt to vote for an All-German National Assembly. On 18th May, 1948, the Frankfurt Parliament was convened in the Church of Saint Paul by members elected from various political associations.

The members drafted a constitution based on the idea of a monarchy subject to parliament. When the members requested Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, to accept the crown, he declined. The middle class dominated the parliament and did not accept the demands of artisans and peasants. The aristocracy, powered by the army, got the Frankfurt Parliament disbanded.

Though the conservatives managed to suppress liberal movements, they could not establish the old order. The monarchs realised that the demands of liberals could no longer be ignored. After 1848, the autocratic monarchies of central and eastern Europe began to incorporate changes that had already taken place in western Europe.

Serfdom and bonded labour were abolished in the Habsburg Empire and Russia. The liberal revolutionaries exhibited narrow mindedness in their attitude towards women. Since the French Revolution, women played an active role in revolts and popular movements but they never got their due. They founded newspapers and political associations, but suffrage and political rights still eluded them.

In the Frankfurt Parliament women merely acted as spectators in the upper left gallery. Famous political activist Louise Otto-Peters wrote in the first editorial of her newspaper that liberty, without the liberty of women, benefited only one half of humanity, which was men. Carl Welcker, a member of the Frankfurt Parliament, had tremendous reservation against equal rights for women, and he ridiculed their demands as being against nature.

This awareness of women’s rights based on political and social equality of genders is also known as feminism.

Nation States - Germany, Italy and Britain

After 1848, the conservatives began to use nationalist ideas to strengthen the monarchy. The unification of Italy and Germany came about through this process.

In 1848, the German middle class - professionals, businessmen, wealthy artists and artisans - joined to vote for an all-German National Assembly. They convened at the Frankfurt Parliament. The members of the parliament offered the crown to Friedrich Wilhelm the fourth, King of Prussia, who rejected.

After the Frankfurt Parliament, Prussia became the leader of German unification. The man who played a crucial role in the unification was the Chief Minister of Prussia, Otto Von Bismarck. Bismarck was supported by the bureaucracy and the army. For German unification, three wars were fought over seven years - between 1864 and 1870 with Denmark, France and Austria.

On 18th January, 1871, the King of Prussia, Kaiser William the first, was proclaimed the German Emperor at the Mirror Hall in Versailles. In newly formed Germany a lot of emphasis was placed on modernising the currency, and the banking, legal and judicial systems.

During the middle of the 19th century, Italy was divided into seven states.  Northern Italy was ruled by the Austrian part of the Habsburg Empire, Central Italy by the Pope, while the southern part and Parma by the Bourbon kings of Spain. Only one state, Sardinia Piedmont, was ruled by an Italian princely house.

Mazzini was the leader of the Republican Party. He had formed secret societies like Young Italy to regenerate Italy by education. The rebellions staged by the revolutionaries in 1831 and 1848 failed. The responsibility of unifying Italy came to Victor Emmanuel the II, King of Sardinia Piedmont. The chief minister of Piedmont, Count Camillo di Cavour, helped the king in forming an alliance with France, and they defeated the Austrian in 1859.

Giuseppe Garibaldi played an important role in the unification of Italy. He joined the war along with his armed volunteers called the ‘Red Shirts’. In 1860, Garibaldi and his troops marched into Southern Italy and the kingdom of two Sicilies. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel the second was announced King of united Italy. In 1867, Garibaldi and his volunteers attacked the French troops stationed in the Papal states.

Britain has a different history of how it consolidated as a nation state without uprisings and revolutions. The British Isles was inhabited by ethnic English, Welsh, Scots and Irish. The English nation grew more in power and wealth, and it began to exert influence over the other nations of the island.

The concept of nation states, with England as the centre, came in 1688 after the parliament snatched power from the monarchy. In 1707, the Act of Union between England and Scotland resulted in the formation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain.

To ensure the growth of British identity, Scotland’s cultural and political institutions were suppressed. The British imposed control over Ireland as well. Ireland had two dominant groups, Catholics and Protestants. The English favoured the protestants, and the British helped them to dominate a largely catholic Ireland.

In 1801, Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom after a failed Irish revolt. The symbols of new Britain were the English language, the Union Jack, and the British national anthem.
Visualising a Nation

A symbol is a visual image that represents something other than itself. It may be a representation using an object, picture, written word, sound or a particular mark.

During the 18th and the 19th centuries, several symbols were used by artists and revolutionaries to depict abstract concepts. These symbols were usually popular images from everyday life that uneducated masses could easily identify with.

During revolutions, artists represented a nation as a person. This personification gave life to an abstract concept like nation.

The way of expressing an abstract idea like freedom or liberty through a symbol that may be person or thing is known as allegory. An allegory has a literal and a symbolic meaning. In the nineteenth century, French artists used the female allegory to represent France. She was named Marianne, She symbolises reason, liberty and the ideals of the republic.

In Germany, the allegory for the nation was again a female figure called Germania. A Broken chain represented abolition of slavery.

A fasces or a bundle of rods with an axe in the middle was used to symbolize strength in unity. The red Phrygian cap signified freedom of a slave. It was also known as the liberty cap. French people wore these caps a few days before the storming of the Bastille.

Nationalism and Imperialism

Through the 18th and the mid-19th century, Europe was marked by a lot of chaos and turmoil. After 1871, there was a significant change in the concept of nationalism in Europe.

Nationalist groups in Europe had become increasingly incompatible with each other and were constantly in conflict. The major European powers, namely Russia, Germany, England and Austro-Hungary began taking advantage of nationalism in Europe, to materialise their aims for imperialism.
Imperialism refers to the policy of extending the rule and the authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

The European powers sighted the much-disturbed Balkan region to fulfil their imperialist goals. The Balkans region consisted of the following countries of our times - Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro.

People of different ethnicities and culture lived in the Balkans and were collectively known as Slavs. The spread of romantic nationalism and the downfall of the Ottoman Empire had made the Balkans peninsula very tense and volatile. The Ottoman Empire had not been able to strengthen itself even after having adopted reforms and modern methods.

The European subjects had begun to break away from the Ottoman Empire and had started declaring themselves independent. The Balkans claimed independence and a separate political identity based on nationality.

The Balkans argued that they had been dominated by foreign countries earlier so now they wanted to break away from the foreign rule and gain independence. The Balkans were jealous of each other and wanted to expand control over each other’s territories.

Intensifying the tension further was the rivalry between the European powers over trade, colonies, and naval and military strength. To fulfil these aims, Russia, Germany, England and Austro-Hungary wanted to extend their control over the already disturbed Balkan region. The rivalry caused many wars and culminated in the First World War.

Nationalism, aligned with imperialism, led Europe to disaster in 1914. Later, the countries colonised by the European powers in the 19th century began to overthrow their imperial rule. Many countries struggled for the formation of nation states, and each country was inspired by a sense of collective national unity.

Every country developed its own specific nationalism; there was one thing in common - the idea of organising societies as nation states.

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