The roots of modern Nationalism emerged in England during the 17th century. The famous and historic Puritan revolution sparked nationalist waves across the world. England is often known as one of the fastest-developing nations in history. The country of England had managed to achieve a significant scientific culture that was excelling in commercial enterprise. Their trading endeavors meant that their political thought and activity were relatively known globally. With the emergence of the new age, there was growing confidence in the English identity. This nation sought historical glory within and a true reformation of global affairs. These beliefs and values of liberty led the English people to revolt hoping that positive humanism would emerge from society. A significant part of the English identity stems from their faith in Christianity. The early British nationalist movements embraced Calvinist ethics. They used the Bible to help gain influence over the masses.
They believed their nation’s role was to carry the gospel across humanity. With the Nationalist movement in England proliferating, the French soon joined in. European Nationalism began gaining momentum due to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Leon Baradat is a famous American political scholar. He argues that Nationalism is a message spread to the people to help them identify with the interests of their national group. The unification qualities of this message are essential for creating a strong state. It is argued that a nation-state is often better equipped to support the interests of its people.
Although Nationalism started with little interest, the values and philosophies of this ideological impetus would proceed to transform Europe. This transformation happened relatively quickly, with Europe’s emancipation leading the political agenda in only a few decades. The people of Europe soon began to view the rule of monarchies as destructive to their national identity. The foreign control of European geographical territory was heavily criticized by the nationalists, who had immense self-determination to form new federal governments.
Nations such as Italy and Germany found their state nationalism by bringing together their regional states. This “national identity” was more robust because they had yet to be colonized. Numerous nations in Europe did not have this same opportunity. Countries such as Greece, Poland, Serbia, and Bulgaria found unity after they underwent uprisings. Many of these nations had to fight to win their territory back from the Ottoman or Russian Empires. For these revolts to work, there was a need for solid Nationalism.
The European continent during the mid-eighteenth century had no ‘nation-states’. Maps from that time show that countries such as Germany, Italy, and Switzerland were identified based on their kingdoms, duchies, and cantons. The leaders of these areas had several autonomous territories.
Europe was deeply divided at the time as autocratic monarchies ruled Eastern and Central Europe. These monarchies tried to suppress the national identity of these regions, which was difficult because highly diverse people lived there. These groups often spoke different languages and were of other ethnic groups. Due to the diverse population, it was difficult to convince these people that they shared a collective identity and culture.
The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848
The 19th century was a highly political era in which various regimes fought to consolidate their authority. The conservative governments that were ruling at the time opposed entrenching their control over the territory. Liberalist and nationalist movements were seen as threats to the rule of these regimes. They were often associated with revolution because of their radical rhetoric.
In numerous German states and provinces of the Ottoman Empire, revolutions occurred that were organized and implemented by liberal nationalists. The middle-class citizens formed the body of these movements. These groups were often educated in various professions, such as professors, schoolteachers, and clerks. In July 1830, these groups initiated the first revolt against the Bourbon kings. These rulers rose to power in 1815 and were later overthrown by liberal revolutionaries. King Louis Philippe would be installed by his army and form a constitutional monarchy. During this period, France had a significant influence over Europe. Political scholars argue that the July Revolution was one of the main events that sparked an uprising in Brussels. This fight for freedom is significant in European Nationalism as it led to Belgium declaring independence from the United. Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Another significant European nationalist event was the Greek war for independence. Greece was an intellectual powerhouse that was believed to house some of the most educated elites across Europe. The decision for this nation to fight for independence from the Ottoman Empire resulted in power changing hands for the first time since the 15th century. After the freedom struggle in 1821, many European nations caught onto this revolutionary Nationalism.
The Romantic Imagination and National Feeling
Wars and territorial expansion were one of the driving factors behind Nationalism. Scholars argue; however that culture was also a significant factor. The role nation building was closely tied to art and poetry, stories and music. To generate support for their cause, many nationalists harnessed the power to express themselves. To successfully shape nationalist feelings, nationalists used Romanticism. This concept was a cultural movement used to develop a nationalist sentiment. Romantic artists and poets argued against oppression and often criticized the glorification of reason and science.