Has Nationalism been a unifying or divisive force during the 19th and 20th centuries? Essay

August 25, 2021 by Essay Writer

The concept of nationalism was first associated with the French Revolution and Napoleon, who contributed a lot to its spread all over Europe. During the late 19th century, nationalism became very popular with urban societies and as its popularity increased, people began to shift their allegiance from monarchy to a country.

People began putting national interests above all other considerations driven by the perception that nationalism gave them the sense of power and belonging, and also provided them with a connection to the state, which had been disrupted during the industrial revolution.

However, as the concept of nationalism emerged, it emerged that there were two forms of nationalism, one form aimed at extending the scale of human social, political and cultural units and unify individuals while the other form was exclusionary and divisive. This essay shall examine the concept of nationalism as applied in the 18th and 19th century with the hope of the hope of establishing whether it helped cause divisiveness or unity among people.

European colonialism generated two opposing sociopolitical movements. On one hand, the colonial rulers encouraged the existing tribal-ethnic and religious divisions in the society through a policy of devide et impera while on the other hand, their colonial methods unwittingly gave rise to anti-colonial nationalism movements.

It can therefore be said that colonial rule gave rise to the two forces of unifying nationalism and divisive tribalism and that the appropriate and legitimate framework for decolonization was nationalism, which emanated from the foreign idea of the nation-state.

Among the numerous factors responsible for sparking of the First and the Second World Wars was nationalism. During the period before and during the two wars, nationalism became a dangerous tool as it was exploited to trigger wars and conflicts between states and nations. Nationalists, in many instances, used the nationalism belief of putting country before anything else to encourage citizens to get involved in wars that placed individuals of different nationalities against each other.

The divisive force of nationalism was also observed during the Cold War when the USSR and the US indirectly engaged each other in contests. The Cold War was triggered by the existence of forces which were responsible for sparking off the two world wars. These tensions, in addition to the Russian and American nationalism forces made it possible for leaders of both nations to win public support for their foreign policies that fuelled the Cold War.

During the Cold War, the Truman administration used American nationalism as a major tool to convince an overwhelming majority of US citizens that the Soviet Union was no more than an expansionist force bent on world contest, much as Nazi Germany had been. With this in mind, man Americans supported any efforts by their government that supported the US’ agenda for the Cold War.

Nationalism also paid an important role during the Revolutionary Europe period. During this period, nationalism was inherently divisive in its political ramifications. Most European countries consisted of a patchwork of different ethnic, linguistic and religious communities, a product of centuries of migration, war and dynastic alliances.

Nationalism was responsible for stabilizing each of the European states based on a single national community. This in turn triggered competition for resources and living space between the different nationalities leading to the emergence of several wars.

In conclusion, nationalism has been applied in different contexts to achieve different results. This essay has shown how nationalists used nationalism to both unify and divide their citizens. It can therefore be said that nationalism resulted in both unity and divisiveness during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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