Nationalism unites people of different classes and ideologies. It brings people together but also pulls them apart. It can be defined as the love for one’s country and willingness to sacrifice for it to be free from foreign rule, patriotism. It can also be defined as the belief that one’s national culture and interests are superior to any other. Dictators and other politicians can use nationalism as a tool to exaggerate differences and cause discriminatory thinking. Beginning with the French Revolution of 1789, nationalism was the most powerful force in the 1800s.
Through the course of history nationalism united people into state, toppled empires composed of many ethnic minorities, and contributed to the outbreak of wars in the nineteenth century. Nationalism unified people into nation-states. A nation-state is generally an independent political state. Unification developed between groups of people of similar culture, religion, language, and traditions. During the French Revolution, nationalism was significant in the Levée en Masse “…young men shall go forth to battle…women will make tents…old men will gather in public places to raise the courage of the warriors…” (Document 1) because everyone had a role to play as the French unite to fight against the other European countries that were attacking France.
In France, on August 23, 1793 the “Levee en Masse” greatly impacted French society. The Levee en Masse was in a way, a draft to rally support of the citizens. It showed nationalism because it required the people to work for the greater good of a nation. (Document 1) Since patriotism is one of the key factors of nationalism, the Levee en Masse is a perfect illustration of the effects of nationalism on French society. Another example of French nationalism is shown in Document 2, which consists of an excerpt of the French National Anthem. The French National Anthem urges the French to fight for their right to liberty against cruel tyrants. This is shown in the following quote: “Arise, children of the fatherland…Against us cruel tyrants…March on, march on, To liberty or death!”
Another group of people that was heavily impacted by the effects of nationalism were the Italian people. In 1850, Italy was ruled by many different empires. They were separate states with no unification whatsoever. The Northern regions were richer than the south, and the two areas had nothing in common. Italy had lack of unity, which is shown in the fact that Mazzini wanted a Republic, the Pope wanted a confederation, and Charles Albert wanted a kingdom. When Cavour rose as a prominent nationalist figure in Italy, he used many tactics to promote nationalism. He encouraged trade, expanded the transportation options, promoted agricultural production, and joined Britain and France in the Crimenian war against Russia. These tactics eventually proved to create unity in Italy because of a common economy, industry and common enemies. This is supported by Boyd Shafer’s saying that for nationalism to exist, it is necessary for people to share a common enemy, a common pride in achievements, and some common economic institution.
Another Italian Nationalist figure in Italy was Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1861 he made a speech in which he tried to unify the Italian masses who were truly devoted to the nation. In his speech, he called for a greater commitment in an attempt to weed out hypocrisy. He uses the metaphor, “Let him who loves his country in his heart, and not with his lips only, follow me.” (Document 4)
In the 1800’s, German was spoken all through Prussia, the western half of the Austrian Empire, and many small states. There was much conflict in uniting the German states, including religious conflict. Otto von Bismark was a nationalist who lived during this time, who, “…some people feel single-handedly unified Germany and started it on its road to greatness.” Bismark’s method was crafty. He united Germany by creating a common enemy, and by fueling war. He expresses this in the metaphor “blood and iron.” (Document 5)
Nationalism influence on the development of the great European powers will not soon be forgotten. Under the watchful eye of great leaders such as Cavour, Garibaldi, von Bismark, and Mazzini, Nationalism tore apart great empires, united nation- states that had previously suffered from long standing conflict, and fueled many progressive wars. Allegiance and zeal for one’s nation is what sparks nationalism, and nationalism is what sparks change.