Nationalism and Its 19th Century History from a Moral and Functional Perspective Research Paper

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

The idea of nationalism surfaced during the 1789 French Revolution. This period saw the dawn of the earliest nation-state. France took advantage of its state and nation correspondence, although, other countries had not made any use of the same.

France used nationalism to unite the state against its enemies, and this showed the morality of nationalism. Conversely, Germany used nationalism to unite and disintegrate the state, at the same time. It sought to unite its single states while not asserting its supremacy over other states, directly.

Germany tried to declare its authority over other states only once after it became self-aware. However, Germany faced resistance from other European nations. Therefore, Germany showed both “good” and “bad” sides of nationalism, or functional basis of nationalism (Kramer 24).

T his paper evaluates nationalism and its 19th-century history on a moral and functional basis. The paper first describes the nature and history of nationalism. Next, it shows nationalism from a functional and moral basis using Germany and France as the two case studies.

Nature and History of Nationalism

Nationalism, as mentioned earlier, emerged during the 19th century after French Revolution. Other factors that contributed to the rise of nationalism, in this period included economic reasons, literacy and class divisions.

Some scholars classify nationalism into “good” and “bad” nationalism. However, nationalism cannot be termed as “good” or “bad” just like capitalism, imperialism, and socialism (Urban 5).

Scholars who support good nationalism limit it to the meaning that nationalists try to create, or uphold their own country and that the figure of nationalists can correspond to the countries that exist (Urban 5).

The fact that nationalists can correspondent to the figure of existing countries influenced Europe during the 19th century, and led to disagreements over boundaries, or foreign masters.

Conversely, “bad” nationalism created a negative name for nationalism since actors like Milosevic and Adolf Hitler had undesirable traits. This form of nationalism eroded an individual’s superior race or nation against all others in trying to survive. Earlier on, Europeans used “bad” nationalism in their perceptions towards people who lived in their colonies.

Germany

In 1815, German states formed a union to control France, although it was clear that unions amid German states would not last due to difficulties in the power balance. Ahead of Bismarck’s reign, the unification of Germany followed a democratic process.

However, Bismarck unified Germany using “blood and iron” (Wahr 6). He left Germany under the control of the King of Prussia as the country became a part of Prussia. Thus, Bismarck’s agenda for uniting Germany was cruel and selfish.

In 1862, Bismarck joined with Austria in a war against Denmark to exorcise it from Schleswig (Wahr 7). However, in 1864, Bismarck betrayed Austria through helping Italy in getting the Austrian property in Italy and driving out Austria’s control from the German union.

Moreover, Bismarck destabilized Austria by supporting the independence of Hungary in the newly formed Austria-Hungary union. Germany became an empire, in 1871 after the Prussia-French war came to an end. Again, the chief goal of nationalism was not unification.

While earlier generations of Germans wished to build a legitimate and democratic nation, united Germany did not have similar ideals (Kissinger 133). It mirrored no earlier line of German philosophy as the country had grown into a diplomatic compact amid German royals and not a liberal state.

The kingdom got its power from Prussia, and not from the code of independence (Kissinger 133). However, Bismarck maintained that he was uniting Germans, and abstained from unification after he noticed that it was impractical.

Power politics influenced Bismarck’s actions, although, it was clear that Germany would have disintegrated, devoid of a feeling of nationalism.

Leaders, who came after Bismarck, lacked his self-constraint, and they made efforts to expand beyond the borders of the nation.

France

Nationalism in France was liberal since the time of Napoleon I. When France held elections Napoleon III won with a wide gap compared to the other four presidential candidates, although, his party had never participated in politics. Several factors contributed to this result.

First, Napoleon’s uncle was popular among the romantics, who saw him as a demigod. Second, peasants and middle-class workers wanted a strong leader to protect urban workers. Third, Napoleon had a clear agenda for France, which got elaboration in two booklets. Ahead of the elections, these booklets, which mainly contained his broad ideas and poverty eradication, were in circulation.

Lastly, Napoleon held that the government had a duty to protect citizens and enhance their economic potential. This could be only achieved through a powerful, authoritarian leader, who would stand for the rights of the rich and the deprived.

This ruler would be connected to the people through direct democracy, his independence pure from lawmaking and political bodies. Such political ideas matched with Napoleon’s idea of social growth and national unity.

The nation and its ruler had a loyal duty to enhance the economy and offer jobs, and not just offering provisional relief to the poor. These actions would benefit people of all classes.

In 1848, many workers in the country took Napoleon’s social and political ideas hazily (Barnes 147). Many common people voted for Napoleon as they saw him as a strong man who was keen to represent their interests.

In 1850, Napoleon experienced massive success in economic development. His regime supported the construction of roads and new investment banks which marked the phase of the industrial revolution (Barnes 147).

His government, moreover, promoted general economic growth through an optimistic plan of public works, which focused on the reconstruction of Paris and urban surroundings. Business people experienced vast profits while standards of the working class enhanced. More jobs were available to the working class and their wages increased with inflation.

Napoleon’s hope was that economic development would cut down political and social pressures, and this expectation came to pass. France experienced little opposition and more support from urban employees, in 1850s (Barnes 147).

At this time, Napoleon III promoted credit unions and controlled pawn shops together with enhanced housing for the working class. A decade later, Napoleon allowed workers to form unions and gave them the right to strike, unlike earlier regimes.

As a genuine nationalist, Napoleon sought to restructure Europe using the law of nationality over France territory. He was a unique leader as he always considered public opinion during his reign. In the 1860s, Napoleon liberalized his territory, though offering more powers to the assembly as well as increased liberty to the opposition (Barnes 148).

Thus, liberty and democracy characterized Napoleon’s regime. His regime made sure that people obtained their rights as well as their needs through merit, but not bloodline, like in neighboring nations.

In conclusion, nationalism was a significant ideological force, during the 19th century, and it had both moral and functional basis. The moral basis of nationalism is clear from the case of France.

First, Napoleon used nationalism to unite the state against its enemies. Second, France experienced massive expansion as Napoleon supported the construction of roads and investment banks. His government, moreover, promoted general economic growth through an optimistic plan of public works, which focused on the reconstruction of Paris and urban surroundings.

Third, Napoleon created more jobs for the working class and increased their wages. Business people, also, experienced vast profits while standards of the working class enhanced.

Thus, the economy experienced massive economic growth due to nationalism.

Conversely, the functionality basis of nationalism is clear from the case of Germany. Nationalism in Germany served both unification and disintegration purposes. Bismarck tried to unify Germany using “blood and iron.”

However, in 1864, Germany betrayed Austria through helping Italy in getting the Austrian property in Italy and driving out Austria’s control from the German union. Moreover, Germany destabilized Austria by supporting the independence of Hungary in the newly formed Austria-Hungary union.

Thus, Germany showed both “good” and “bad” sides of nationalism, which forms the functional basis of nationalism. Power politics influenced Bismarck’s actions, although, it was clear that Germany would have disintegrated, devoid of a feeling of nationalism.

Presently, nationalism is a mass movement as it continues to influence daily activities among nations. Thus, a study on whether nationalism is likely to continue forever, among European nations, is suitable to build on this field.

Works Cited

Barnes, Thomas. Nationalism, Industrialization, and Democracy, 1815-1914, Washington, D.C: University Press of America, 1980. Print.

Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy, Oxford, New York: Touchstone, 1995. Print.

Kramer, Lloyd. Nationalism in Europe & America: Politics, Cultures, and Identities Since 1775, Chapel Hill, Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Print.

Urban, Whitaker. Nationalism and International Progress, Los Angeles, San Francisco: Howard Chandler, 1960. Print.

Wahr, George. Tales of the Internal Saboteur, London, England: Routledge, 2012. Print.

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