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Meaning of Nationalism

Nationalism is the idea of a sense of common identity and a sense of belongingness to a particular geographical area. Apart from this, it is also a sense of attachment to a particular culture. Culture encompasses a variety of factors such as language, cuisine, costumes, folklores, etc.

Development of Nationalism

The principle of nationalism flourished owing to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. The spirit of nationalism spread in every nook and corner of Europe. New nation states were formed and the political map of Europe was completely changed.
Eastern and Central Europe were under autocratic rulers. The rulers did not have a common culture or collective identity with the ruled territories.
For example, in the Habsburg Empire that ruled over Austria-Hungary, the ruler spoke a different language and followed a culture different from what the rest of the people of the region followed.
Industrialisation began in England and spread to other parts of Europe during nineteenth century. It created a new class of people, the middle class. The working class consisted of business men, industrialists and professionals. Most of the people belonging to this class were educated and liberal in outlook. They were against monarchial rule. Thus, they encouraged freedom and national unity.
After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, the European rulers were inclined towards conservatism rule. The rulers felt the need to protect traditional institutions, church and social hierarchies. The liberal nationalists opposed the conservatism and sought for freedom of the press.
The culture also played an important role in the development of nationalism. Poetry, art, folk songs/folklore and music helped to express and shape the nationalistic feelings.
Many small provinces under foreign rulers revolted and created new nation states. The Greeks succeeded in establishing their independent kingdom after a long struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Belgium also broke off with Holland and established an independent nation state. The congress of Berlin, held in 1878, approved the formation of Rumania and was recognised as an independent country. The unification of Italy and Germany was completed in 1870–1871.

Effects of Nationalism

  • The unification of Italy and Germany could be effected due to the influence of Nationalism but it also gave birth to several problems.
  • Bismarck’s mission in unification offended the non-Germans and they always remained dissatisfied with the Germans. The same happened in the case of Italy.
  • The entire Europe was gripped by the problem of nationalism. Each nation of Europe regarded themselves as superior to the other due to intense nationalism.
  • Intense nationalism led to aggressiveness and compelled every nation to boast of its own nationality and to humiliate the other. It ultimately led the entire world to war.
  • The small and feeble nations were also affected by intense nationalism. They wanted to free themselves from the yoke of the big nations. Like Ireland wanted to be free from the rule of England, Finland and Poland wanted to be free from the control of Russia. People of different races in Austria began to make efforts to establish their own independent states. Italy wanted to establish its sway over the Austrian territory where Italians lived in majority. France wanted to get back Alsace and Lorraine due to the intense nationalism of the people.

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