Nationalism and Its 19th Century History Research Paper

December 10, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction and background

The emergence of nationalism can be linked to the revolution that took place in France in the year 1789. This was the time when the first state or nation was believed to have been established. Despite the existence of states with coinciding boundaries of both the state and the nation, many states did not realize the significance of such close borders.

In addition, none of the states took advantage of this situation until in 1789 when France opted to take advantage of the opportunity. This move resulted into mixed reactions from different states and consequently gave rise to nationalism. The idea of creating new nations was regarded to be an extremely crucial activity during the 19th century evolution.

Although the majority of nations in Europe were established during the 20th century, it is worth to note that the events leading to the creation of these states took place during the 19th century. The earliest attempts to create new states were initiated around this time. In addition, creation of a given state or nation was based on clearly outlined goals that were necessary in enhancing unity (Greenfeld 23).

During the 18th and 19th century, nationalism served a significant role of unifying people from different parts of the world. The background to nationalism can be traced back at the time when secular states emerged. This occurred after the collapse of the feudal system. The latter facilitated the emergence of the industrial system. During this time, power was transferred from the state and church.

Power was finally concentrated within the state. The boundaries of various states were also affected by ethnic allegiances that existed during this time. Negative ethnicity and racial ties also affected the positive attributes of nationalism. The ideology that managed to dominate other people grew into s state of nationalism. Later on, the dominant ideology was conceptualized in several states especially among the secular regimes.

This was followed by myriads of other changes such as the need to maintain religious, linguistic and other pertinent sentiments that were likely to cause any conflict. The emergence and growth of nationalism has been tackled in this essay.

Some of the most dominant characteristics of nationalism have also been explored in the essay. The paper also attempts to find out the merits and demerits of nationalism. The case studies of both Italy and Germany have been used to support the arguments presented in the paper.

Nature of Nationalism

It is not easy to specify whether nationalism is good or awful. However, a large number of scholars have managed provide a clear distinction between different forms of nationalism that may be good and awful (Banks and Andre 14). The good side of nationalism is attributed to instances whereby nationalists of a given state strive to maintain or establish individual nation.

There is no restriction on the number of nationalists willing to create a nation. This form of nationalism can be best understood by referring to the nationalism witnessed in Europe during the 19th century. It should be noted that, the conflicts that arose from nationalism in Europe involved both nationality and the alien master. However, some conflicts were also triggered by the delimitation of state boundaries (Spencer and Howard 95).

On the other hand, the nationalism that can be regarded to be awful is based on situations where some nations may perceive themselves to be superior to others. This form of nationalism can also occur when certain races feel that they are more superior than others. This may not auger well in a nation where citizens are struggling to survive.

Nationalism is believed to have given Europe an extremely awful image. The actions of individuals such as Slobodan Milosevic and Adolf Hitler during the twentieth century resulted into increased cases of unrest in various states. The European society also followed the trend by applying their attitudes on other nationals who were not from Europe.

The nationalism that can be regarded to be awful is linked to characteristics that seem to unite people although separates people from each other. Initially, nationalism was used as a means of uniting people. A good example is the manner in which nationalism was applied in France.

Every citizen was requested to support the move that sought to fight aggressors who were attacking France immediately after the French revolution. The same scenario was witnessed in other countries like Germany and Italy. The valid part of nationalism was found to be instances where nationalism tried to act as a unifying principle (Spencer and Howard 97)

Case studies

Creation of Italy

Italy’s creation is one of the most fascinating period worth to be studied. Unification in Italy began in 1860. This was a time when several states in Italy were had been unified with the assistance of Piedmont and the premier. By 1866, Bismarck had already helped to harmonize all the unconquered possessions from Australia. It is worth to mention that Camillo Cavour had shown some earlier efforts of uniting Italy.

Since it was not easy to unify Italy by defying powers, Cavour achieved this by luring napoleon III. The reason why napoleon agreed to co-operate was due to the strong belief he had of making Italy a powerful nation. The tactics used by Cavour in the north were framed along power politics while Garibaldi’s activities were in the form of revolts.

The revolt carried out by Garibaldi managed to take control of a large part of Italy especially towards the south. Many people believe that this was possible because Garibaldi received a lot of support from the peasants. Therefore, it is evident that nationalism played a remarkable role in unifying Italy (Page and Penny 289).

Germany Unification

Germany also struggled to realize diplomatic finesse in the same was as Italy. The Vienna congress that took place in 1815 led to the creation of the German confederation that was noted to be quite delicate. The overall aim of this confederation was to aid in taking control of France. It was believed that Germany could unite if it exercised high levels democracy before the emergence of Bismarck.

However, Bismarck did not show any element of democracy when uniting Germany. Instead, he used the “blood and iron” techniques to unite Germany. Eventually, Germany became Prussia’s extension. This made the Prussia’s king become Germany’s emperor. This was similar to the past occurrences in Italy where Piedmont’s power made Italy extend itself.

The program introduced by Bismarck for uniting Germany was dismissed to be ruthless. Bismarck opted to engage in war with Denmark having been made the premier of Prussia in 1862. Two years later, he stopped supporting Austria and instead opted to help Italy. As a result, Italy managed to possess Austria and consequently expelled its influence.

During this time, Bismarck claimed to help the people of Germany to unite. After realizing that this was not an easy task, Bismarck decided to quit the process. It is vital to note that, even though power politics played a significant role in unifying the Germans, a lot of contribution also came from the national feeling that prevented Germany from disintegrating like other European multinational empires (Hewitson 167).


In recap, it is evident that nationalism was the principle ideological force during the 20th century era. It is also prudent to note that the 19th century transformation significantly undermined nationalism at this time. Moreover, the society was remarkably influenced by national consciousness.

Hence, the spirit of nationalism played both positive and negative roles. Moreover, the international class-consciousness has minimal nationalistic appeal to people. Nationalism has continually grown and consequently led to the replacement of romantic nationalism. The latter advocated for people’s self-determination. The racist nationalism categorized people into various classes of superiority.

In order to determine whether nationalism is good or awful, it can be argued out that, nationalism that seeks self-determination can be regarded to be meritocratic. On the other hand, nationalism that attempts to group some people as more superior than others is regarded to be unfavorable. The latter form of nationalism is also likely to cause conflicts between individuals or states.

However, the negative aspects of nationalism have immensely contributed towards its popularity. However, it is also crucial to comprehend the contribution made by the spirit of nationalism. For instance, nationalism assisted in unifying the Germans and also the creation of new states like Italy.

Works Cited

Banks, Marcus and Gingrich, André. Neo-nationalism in Europe and Beyond: Perspectives from Social Anthropology. New York: Berghahn Books, 2006. Print.

Greenfeld, Liah. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992. Print.

Hewitson, Mark. Nationalism in Germany, 1848-1866: Revolutionary Nation. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.

Page, Melvin and Sonnenburg, Penny. Colonialism: An International, Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003. Print.

Spencer, Philip and Wollman, Howard. Nationalism: A Critical Introduction. London: SAGE, 2002. Print.

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