Nationalism in Europe – Term II




Following is the Point-Wise notes of the lesson. Each section is followed by an audio transcript of the text. You can learn the lesson either reading or listening. You can also take an MCQ test at the end. Hope you will be benefited.

Nationalism in Europe.

Interpretations of the image:

Drawn by Sorriue.

The peoples of Europe and America – men and women of all ages and social classes – marching in a long train, and offering homage to the statue of Liberty as they pass by it. The female figure of the Liberty is holding the torch of enlightenment in one hand and the charter of men on the other. Leading the procession, way past the statue of Liberty, are the United States and Switzerland, which by this time were already nation-states.

Audio Transcript


The French Revolution and the Raise of Nationalism:

The first clear expression of nationalism came with the French Revolution in 1789. There was the transition or transfer of power from monarchy to the Body of the French citizen. The French Revolutionaries introduced various measures to create a sense of collective identity. They are as follows:

1.  The ideas of la patrie (the fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen) emphasized the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution.

2. A new French flag, the tricolour, was chosen to replace the former royal standard.

3. The Estates General was elected by the body of active citizens and renamed the National Assembly.

 4. New hymns were composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated, all in the name of the nation. 5. A centralised administrative system was put in place and it formulated uniform laws for all citizens within its territory.

 6. Internal customs duties and dues were abolished and a uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.

7. Regional dialects were discouraged and French, as it was spoken and written in Paris, became the common language of the nation.


The French thought that it was their duty to spread the spirit of nationalism in other parts of the Europe. The idea was carried by them with their army, with the outbreak of revolutionary wars.


Effects of French Revolution on Other Countries:

When the news of the events in France reached the different cities of Europe, students and other members of educated middle classes began setting up Jacobin clubs. Their activities and campaigns prepared the way for the French armies which moved into Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and much of Italy in the 1790s. With the outbreak of the revolutionary wars, the French armies began to carry the idea of nationalism abroad.


Napoleonic Code:

Though Napoleon destroyed democracy in France, he brought about rational changes in the administrative setup. The Civil Code of 1804 – is usually known as the Napoleonic Code.

1. It did away with all privileges based on birth, established equality before the law and secured the right to property.

2. This Code was exported to the regions under French control. In the Dutch Republic, in Switzerland, in Italy and Germany, Napoleon simplified administrative divisions.

3. Napoleon abolished the feudal system and freed peasants from serfdom and manorial dues. In the towns too, guild restrictions were removed.

4. Transport and communication systems were improved. Peasants, artisans, workers and new businessmen enjoyed a new-found freedom. Businessmen and small-scale producers of goods, in particular, began to realise that uniform laws, standardised weights and measures, and a common national currency would facilitate the movement and exchange of goods and capital from one region to another.



How did the People in other parts of Europe receive it?

1. In the areas conquered, the reactions of the local populations to French rule were mixed. Initially, in many places such as Holland and Switzerland, as well as in certain cities like Brussels, Mainz, Milan and Warsaw, the French armies were welcomed as harbingers of liberty.

2. The initial enthusiasm soon turned to hostility, as it became clear that the new administrative arrangements did not go hand in hand with political freedom. 3.

3. Increased taxation, censorship, forced conscription into the French armies required to conquer the rest of Europe, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of the administrative changes.

Situation Before Revolution.

1. In the mid-eighteenth-century Europe there were no ‘nation-states’ as we know them today. Modern day Germany, Italy and Switzerland were divided into kingdoms, duchies and cantons whose rulers had their autonomous territories.

2. Eastern and Central Europe were under autocratic monarchies within the territories of which lived diverse peoples. They did not see themselves as sharing a collective identity or a common culture. Often, they even spoke different languages and belonged to different ethnic groups.

3. The Habsburg Empire that ruled over Austria-Hungary, for example, was a patchwork of many different regions and peoples. It included the Alpine regions – the Tyrol, Austria and the Sudetenland – as well as Bohemia, where the aristocracy was predominantly German-speaking.

4. It also included the Italian-speaking provinces of Lombardy and Venetia. In Hungary, half of the population spoke Magyar while the other half spoke a variety of dialects. In Galicia, the aristocracy spoke Polish.

5. Besides these three dominant groups, there also lived within the boundaries of the empire, a mass of subject peasant peoples – Bohemians and Slovaks to the north, Slovenes in Carniola, Croats to the south, and Roumans to the east in Transylvania. Such differences did not easily promote a sense of political unity. The only tie binding these diverse groups together was a common allegiance to the emperor.

The Aristocracy and the Peasantry.

1.  Socially and politically, a landed aristocracy was the dominant class on the continent.

2. The members of this class were united by a common way of life that cut across regional divisions.

3. They owned estates in the countryside and also town-houses. They spoke French for purposes of diplomacy and in high society.

4. Their families were often connected by ties of marriage. This powerful aristocracy was, however, numerically a small group.

5. The majority of the population was made up of the peasantry. To the west, the bulk of the land was farmed by tenants and small owners, while in Eastern and Central Europe the pattern of landholding was characterised by vast estates which were cultivated by serfs.

The New Middle Class.

1. In Western and parts of Central Europe the growth of industrial production and trade meant the growth of towns and the emergence of commercial classes whose existence was based on production for the market.

2. Industrialisation began in England in the second half of the eighteenth century, but in France and parts of the German states it occurred only during the nineteenth century.

3. In its wake, new social groups came into being: a working-class population, and middle classes made up of industrialists, businessmen, professionals.

4. In Central and Eastern Europe these groups were smaller in number till late nineteenth century.

5.It was among the educated, liberal middle classes that ideas of national unity following the abolition of aristocratic privileges gained popularity.

The Idea of Liberal Nationalism. What did it mean to different arena?

Ideas of national unity in early-nineteenth-century Europe were closely allied to the ideology of liberalism. The term ‘liberalism’ derives from the Latin root liber, meaning free.

A. For the new middle classes liberalism stood for freedom for the individual and equality of all before the law.

B. Politically, it emphasised the concept of government by consent. Since the French Revolution, liberalism had stood for the end of autocracy and clerical privileges, a constitution and representative government through parliament. Nineteenth-century liberals also stressed the inviolability of private property.

Right to Vote

1. Equality before the law did not necessarily stand for universal suffrage. In France, the right to vote and to get elected was granted exclusively to property-owning men. Men without property and all women were excluded from political rights.

2. Only for a brief period under the Jacobins did all adult males enjoy suffrage. However, the Napoleonic Code went back to limited suffrage and reduced women to the status of a minor, subject to the authority of fathers and husbands.

3. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries women and non-propertied men organised opposition movements demanding equal political rights.

C. In the Economic Sphere.

    Freedom of Access to Markets.

In the economic sphere, liberalism stood for the freedom of markets and the abolition of state-imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and capital. During the nineteenth century this was a strong demand of the emerging middle classes.

The example of the German speaking regions.

1. Napoleon’s administrative measures had created out of countless small principalities a confederation of 39 states. Each of these possessed its own currency, and weights and measures.

2. A merchant travelling in 1833 from Hamburg to Nuremberg to sell his goods would have had to pass through 11 customs barriers and pay a customs duty of about 5 per cent at each one of them.

3. Duties were often levied according to the weight or measurement of the goods. As each region had its own system of weights and measures, this involved time-consuming calculation.

4. The measure of cloth, for example, was the elle which in each region stood for a different length. An elle of textile material bought in Frankfurt would get you 54.7 cm of cloth, in Mainz 55.1 cm, in Nuremberg 65.6 cm, in Freiburg 53.5 cm.


5. Such conditions were viewed as obstacles to economic exchange and growth by the new commercial classes.

6. In 1834, a customs union or zollverein was formed at the initiative of Prussia and joined by most of the German states.

7. The union abolished tariff barriers and reduced the number of currencies from over thirty to two. The creation of a network of railways further stimulated mobility, harnessing economic interests to national unification.


A New Conservatism after 1815

1. Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, European governments were driven by a spirit of conservatism.

2. Conservatives believed that established, traditional institutions of state and society – like the monarchy, the Church, social hierarchies, property and the family – should be preserved.

3. Most conservatives, however, did not propose a return to the society of per-revolutionary days. Rather, they realised, from the changes initiated by Napoleon, that modernisation could in fact strengthen traditional institutions like the monarchy. It could make state power more effective and strong.

4. A modern army, an efficient bureaucracy, a dynamic economy, the abolition of feudalism and serfdom could strengthen the autocratic monarchies of Europe.

The Vienna Congress.

1. In 1815, representatives of the European powers – Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria – who had collectively defeated Napoleon, met at Vienna to draw up a settlement for Europe.

2. The Congress was hosted by the Austrian Chancellor Duke Metternich. The delegates drew up the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 with the object of undoing most of the changes that had come about in Europe during the Napoleonic wars.

3. The Bourbon dynasty, which had been deposed during the French Revolution, was restored to power, and France lost the territories it had annexed under Napoleon.

4. A series of states were set up on the boundaries of France to prevent French expansion in future. Thus the kingdom of the Netherlands, which included Belgium, was set up in the north and Genoa was added to Piedmont in the south. Prussia was given important new territories on its western frontiers, while Austria was given control of northern Italy. But the German confederation of 39 states that had been set up by Napoleon was left untouched. In the east, Russia was given part of Poland while Prussia was given a portion of Saxony.

6. The main intention was to restore the monarchies that had been overthrown by Napoleon, and create a new conservative order in Europe.

The Nature of the New Conservative Regimes.

1. Conservative regimes set up in 1815 were autocratic. They did not tolerate criticism and dissent, and sought to curb activities that questioned the legitimacy of autocratic governments.

2. Most of them imposed censorship laws to control what was said in newspapers, books, plays and songs and reflected the ideas of liberty and freedom associated with the French Revolution.

3. The memory of the French Revolution nonetheless continued to inspire liberals. One of the major issues taken up by the liberal-nationalists, who criticised the new conservative order, was freedom of the press.

The Revolutionaries, their ideology and Mazzini.

1. During the years following 1815, the fear of repression drove many liberal-nationalists underground. Secret societies sprang up in many European states to train revolutionaries and spread their ideas.

2. To be revolutionary at this time meant a commitment to oppose monarchical forms that had been established after the Vienna Congress, and to fight for liberty and freedom. Most of these revolutionaries also saw the creation of nation-states as a necessary part of this struggle for freedom.


3. One such individual was the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini. Born in Genoa in 1807, he became a member of the secret society of the Carbonari.

4. As a young man of 24, he was sent into exile in 1831 for attempting a revolution in Liguria. He subsequently founded two more underground societies, first, Young Italy in Marseilles, and then, Young Europe in Berne, whose members were like-minded young men from Poland, France, Italy and the German states.

5. Mazzini believed that God had intended nations to be the natural units of mankind. So Italy could not continue to be a patchwork of small states and kingdoms. It had to be forged into a single unified republic within a wider alliance of nations. This unification alone could be the basis of Italian liberty.

6. Following his model, secret societies were set up in Germany, France, Switzerland and Poland. Mazzini’s relentless opposition to monarchy and his vision of democratic republics frightened the conservatives. Metternich described him as ‘the most dangerous enemy of our social order’.

The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848.

As conservative regimes tried to consolidate their power, liberalism and nationalism came to be increasingly associated with revolution in many regions of Europe such as the Italian and German states, the provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Ireland and Poland.

These revolutions were led by the liberal-nationalists belonging to the educated middle-class elite, among whom were professors, schoolteachers, clerks and members of the commercial middle classes.

The July Revolution:

The first upheaval took place in France in July 1830. The Bourbon kings who had been restored to power during the conservative reaction after 1815, were now overthrown by liberal revolutionaries who installed a constitutional monarchy with Louis Philippe at its head.


Greek War of Independence


1. An event that mobilised nationalist feelings among the educated elite across Europe was the Greek war of independence.

2. Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the fifteenth century. The growth of revolutionary nationalism in Europe, sparked off a struggle for independence amongst the Greeks, which began in 1821.

3. Nationalists in Greece got support from other Greeks living in exile, and also from many West Europeans, who had sympathies for ancient Greek culture.

4. Poets and artists lauded Greece as the cradle of European civilisation and mobilised public opinion to support its struggle against a Muslim empire.

5. The English poet Lord Byron organised funds and later went to fight in the war, where he died of fever in 1824.

6. Finally, the Treaty of Constantinople of 1832 recognised Greece as an independent nation.

The Romantic Imagination and National Feeling.

1. Culture played an important role in creating the idea of the nation: art and poetry, stories and music helped express and shape nationalist feelings.

2. Romantic artists and poets generally criticised the glorification of reason and science and focused instead on emotions, intuition and mystical feelings.

3. Their effort was to create a sense of a shared collective heritage, a common cultural past, as the basis of a nation.

4. Gottfried Herder, a German philosopher, for example,  claimed that true German culture could be discovered through folk poetry and folk dances.

5. So collecting and recording these forms of folk culture was essential to the project of nation-building.

6. Poland had been partitioned at the end of the eighteenth century by the Great Powers – Russia, Prussia and Austria. Even though Poland no longer existed as an independent territory, national feelings were kept alive through music and language. Karol Kurpinski, for example, celebrated the national struggle through his operas and music, turning folk dances like the polonaise and mazurka into nationalist symbols.

Role of Language.

1. Language too played an important role in developing nationalist sentiments. After Russian occupation, the Polish language was forced out of schools and the Russian language was imposed everywhere.

2. In 1831, an armed rebellion against Russian rule took place which was ultimately crushed. Following this, many members of the clergy in Poland began to use language as a weapon of national resistance.

3. Polish was used for Church gatherings and all religious instruction. As a result, a large number of priests and bishops were put in jail or sent to Siberia by the Russian authorities as punishment for their refusal to preach in Russian.

4. The use of Polish came to be seen as a symbol of the struggle against Russian dominance.

Popular Revolt Caused by Hunger, Hardship.

1. The 1830s were years of great economic hardship in Europe. The first half of the nineteenth century saw an enormous increase in population all over Europe. 2. In most countries there were more seekers of jobs than employment. Population from rural areas migrated to the cities to live in overcrowded slums.

3. Small producers in towns were often faced with stiff competition from imports of cheap machine-made goods from England, where industrialization was more advanced than on the continent. This was especially so in textile production, which was carried out mainly in homes or small workshops and was only partly mechanised.

4. In those regions of Europe where the aristocracy still enjoyed power, peasants struggled under the burden of feudal dues and obligations. The rise of food prices or a year of bad harvest led to widespread pauperism in town and country.

5. The year 1848 was one such year. Food shortages and widespread unemployment brought the population of Paris out on the roads.

6. Barricades were erected and Louis Philippe was forced to flee. A National Assembly proclaimed a Republic, granted suffrage to all adult males above 21, and guaranteed the right to work.

7. National workshops to provide employment were set up. Earlier, in 1845, weavers in Silesia had led a revolt against contractors who supplied them raw material and gave them orders for finished textiles but drastically reduced their payments.


The Revolution of the Liberals.

1. Events of February 1848 in France had brought about the abdication of the monarch and a republic based on universal male suffrage had been proclaimed.

2. In other parts of Europe where independent nation-states did not yet exist – such as Germany, Italy, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire – men and women of the liberal middle classes combined their demands for constitutionalism with national unification.

3. They took advantage of the growing popular unrest to push their demands for the creation of a nation-state on parliamentary principles – a constitution, freedom of the press and freedom of association.

Revolution in Germany.

1. In the German regions a large number of political associations came together in the city of Frankfurt and decided to vote for an all-German National Assembly.

2. These associations had members from middle-class professionals, businessmen and prosperous artisans.

3. On 18 May 1848, 831 elected representatives marched in a festive procession to take their places in the Frankfurt parliament convened in the Church of St Paul. 4. They drafted a constitution for a German nation to be headed by a monarchy subject to a parliament.

5. When the deputies offered the crown on these terms to Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, he rejected it and joined other monarchs to oppose the elected assembly.

6. The parliament lost its significance for it had no support of the monarchy and military.

7. Moreover, the parliament was dominated by the middle classes who resisted the demands of workers and artisans and consequently lost their support. In the end troops were called in and the assembly was forced to disband.

Unification of Germany

Otto Von Bismarck



The Making of Germany.

1. After 1848, nationalism in Europe moved away from its association with democracy and revolution. Nationalist sentiments were often mobilised by conservatives for promoting state power and achieving political domination over Europe.

2. This can be observed in the process by which Germany and Italy came to be unified as nation-states. Nationalist feelings were widespread among middle-class Germans, who in 1848 tried to unite the different regions of the German confederation into a nation-state governed by an elected parliament.

3. This liberal initiative to nation-building was, however, repressed by the combined forces of the monarchy and the military, supported by the large landowners (called Junkers) of Prussia.

4. From then on, Prussia took on the leadership of the movement for national unification. Its chief minister, Otto von Bismarck, was the architect of this process carried out with the help of the Prussian army and bureaucracy.

5. Three wars over seven years – with Austria, Denmark and France – ended in Prussian victory and completed the process of unification.

6. In January 1871, the Prussian king, William I, was proclaimed German Emperor in a ceremony held at Versailles. The nation-building process in Germany had demonstrated the dominance of Prussian state power.

7. The new state placed a strong emphasis on modernising the currency, banking, legal and judicial systems in Germany. Prussian measures and practices often became a model for the rest of Germany.

Unification of Italy

Leaders of Italian Unification
Count Cavour, Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II

Condition of Italy before Unification.

1. Like Germany, Italy too had a long history of political fragmentation. Italians were scattered over several dynastic states as well as the multinational Hapsburg Empire.

2. During the middle of the nineteenth century, Italy was divided into seven states, of which only one, Sardinia-Piedmont, was ruled by an Italian princely house.

3. The north was under Austrian Hapsburgs, the centre was ruled by the Pope and the southern regions were under the domination of the Bourbon kings of Spain.

4. Even the Italian language had not acquired one common form and still had many regional and local variations.

Unification of Italy.

1. During the 1830s, Giuseppe Mazzini had sought to put together a coherent programme for a unitary Italian Republic. He had also formed a secret society called Young Italy for the dissemination of his goals.

2. The revolutions failed.

3. It meant that the mantle now fell on Sardinia-Piedmont, under its ruler King Victor Emmanuel II to unify the Italian states through war. In the eyes of the ruling elites of this region, a unified Italy offered them the possibility of economic development and political dominance.


4. Chief Minister Cavour who led the movement to unify the regions of Italy was neither a revolutionary nor a democrat. Like many other wealthy and educated members of the Italian elite, he spoke French much better than he did Italian. Through a tactful diplomatic alliance with France engineered by Cavour, Sardinia-Piedmont succeeded in defeating the Austrian forces in 1859.

5. Apart from regular troops, a large number of armed volunteers under the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the fray.

6. In 1860, they marched into South Italy and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and succeeded in winning the support of the local peasants in order to drive out the Spanish rulers. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed king of united Italy. However, much of the Italian population, among whom rates of illiteracy were very high, remained blissfully unaware of liberal nationalist ideology.

The Strange Case of Britain.

1. In Britain the formation of the nation-state was not the result of a sudden upheaval or revolution. It was the result of a long-drawn-out process. There was no British nation prior to the eighteenth century. The primary identities of the people who inhabited the British Isles were ethnic ones – such as English, Welsh, Scot or Irish. All of these ethnic groups had their own cultural and political traditions.

2. As the English nation steadily grew in wealth, importance and power, it was able to extend its influence over the other nations of the islands.

3. The English parliament, which had seized power from the monarchy in 1688, was the instrument through which a nation-state, with England at its centre, came to be forged.

4. The Act of Union (1707) between England and Scotland that resulted in the formation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’ meant, in effect, that England was able to impose its influence on Scotland.

5. The British parliament was henceforth dominated by its English members. The growth of a British identity meant that Scotland’s distinctive culture and political institutions were systematically suppressed.

6. The Catholic clans that inhabited the Scottish Highlands suffered terrible repression whenever they attempted to assert their independence. The Scottish Highlanders were forbidden to speak their Gaelic language or wear their national dress, and large numbers were forcibly driven out of their homeland.

7. Ireland suffered a similar fate. It was a country deeply divided between Catholics and Protestants. The English helped the Protestants of Ireland to establish their dominance over a largely Catholic country. Catholic revolts against British dominance were suppressed.

8. After a failed revolt led by Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen (1798), Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801.

9. A new ‘British nation’ was forged through the propagation of a dominant English culture. The symbols of the new Britain – the British flag (Union Jack), the national anthem (God Save Our Noble King), the English language – were actively promoted and the older nations survived only as subordinate partners in this union.

Visualising the Nation

Artists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries found a way out by personifying a nation. In other words they represented a country as if it were a person. Nations were then portrayed as female figures. The female form that was chosen to personify the nation did not stand for any particular woman in real life; rather it sought to give the abstract idea of the nation a concrete form. That is, the female figure became an allegory of the nation.

Negative Effects of Nationalism.

1. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century nationalism no longer retained its idealistic liberal-democratic sentiment of the first half of the century, but became a narrow creed with limited ends.

2. During this period nationalist groups became increasingly intolerant of each other and ever ready to go to war.

3. The major European powers, in turn, manipulated the nationalist aspirations of the subject peoples in Europe to further their own imperialist aims.

The Balkan Crisis.

1. The Balkans was a region of geographical and ethnic variation comprising modern-day Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro whose inhabitants were broadly known as the Slavs.

2. A large part of the Balkans was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The spread of the ideas of romantic nationalism in the Balkans together with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire made this region very explosive. All through the nineteenth century the Ottoman Empire had sought to strengthen itself through modernisation and internal reforms but with very little success.

3. One by one, its European subject nationalities broke away from its control and declared independence. The Balkan peoples based their claims for independence or political rights on nationality, and used history to prove that they had once been independent, but had subsequently been subjugated by foreign powers. Hence the rebellious nationalities in the Balkans thought of their struggles as attempts to win back their long-lost independence.

4. As the different Slavic nationalities struggled to define their identity and independence, the Balkan area became an area of intense conflict.

5. The Balkan states were fiercely jealous of each other and each hoped to gain more territory at the expense of the others.

6. Matters were further complicated because the Balkans also became the scene of big power rivalry. During this period, there was intense rivalry among the European powers over trade and colonies as well as naval and military might. These rivalries were very evident in the way the Balkan problem unfolded.

7.Each power – Russia, Germany, England, Austro-Hungary – was keen on countering the hold of other powers over the Balkans, and extending its own control over the area. This led to a series of wars in the region and finally the First World War.

Effect on Rest of the World.

Nationalism, aligned with imperialism, led Europe to disaster in 1914. But meanwhile, many countries in the world which had been colonised by the European powers in the nineteenth century began to oppose imperial domination. The anti-imperial movements that developed everywhere were nationalist, in the sense that they all struggled to form independent nation-states, and were inspired by a sense of collective national unity, forged in confrontation with imperialism. European ideas of nationalism were nowhere replicated, for people everywhere developed their own specific variety of nationalism. But the idea that societies should be organised into ‘nation-states’ came to be accepted as natural and universal.