Reformation and Rise of Nationalism Research Paper

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Profound changes in human conduct have been witnessed in the world especially in medieval Europe. The changes which were mainly brought about by rights movement and discontent with established practices culminated into the organization society with orderly and systematic way of doing things. This paper seeks to describe the sequence of things that led to Reformation, the rise of nationalism and finally the development of universal laws.


Reformation is a term that is used to refer to the “Christian reform movement that led to the establishment of Protestantism as a constituent branch of contemporary Christianity” ( Revesz 45).

The advent of this reform movement can be traced to 1517 after the publication of the “Ninety-Five Theses” by Martin Luther (Malhotra, pars. 3). The reformation was facilitated by Catholics from western European Catholics who had tried to transform the Roman Catholic Church (Revesz 26). This faction was opposed to the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

They were especially discontented with the habit of “buying and selling of clerical offices which they regarded as evidence of the systematic corruption of the Church’s Roman hierarchy” (Social Origins of Democracy, pars. 34). The “ninety-Five Theses on the power and Efficacy of indulgences” written by Martin Luther mainly argued and criticized both the Pope and the church (Revesz, pars. 3-5). The movement was joined by various reformers who later disintegrated due to lack of doctrinal consensus.

As a consequence, various protestant denominations were established. This later led to a 30 year ware between the rulers who had adopted Protestantism and those who defended the Roman Catholic. In the end a treaty was signed to ensure that: all the states be aware of the “peace deal which allowed the prince of a given state to determine the religion of his own state; Christians living in states where their denominations were not the established church would be guaranteed the right to practice their faith”.

Origins of nationalism and equal rights

The roots of nationalism can be traced to the reformation period. The interdenominational wars resulted into insecurity. In the “absence of strong Government’s the people surrendered their lands and labor to local war loads in return for shelter and support” (Malhotra, pars. 2). This systematically gave rise to aristocracy which would later form the basis for revolutionaries towards nationalism.

“The first expression of nationalism came with the French Revolution in 1789” (Malhotra, pars. 3). The country was then an already operational state was being ruled by monarchy. “The political and constitutional changes that came in the wake of the French Revolution led to the transfer of sovereignty from the monarchy to the body of the French citizen” (Malhotra, pars. 4).

This was the first historical instance in which collective identity was being introduced on the people by various practices and actions that “emphasized the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution” (Malhotra, pars.4). During this period many changes took place including the election of estate generals, abolition of duties, and establishment of a system for administration and nationalizing of the French language which was previously used in Paris alone (Malhotra, pars. 4).

The French revolutionaries required the established French nation to play an integral role in the liberation of Europeans from despotism. The campaigns that followed led to movement of the “French armies into Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and much of Italy in the 1790s” (Social Origins of Democracy, pars. 6).

The return to monarchy in France under Napoleon led to the destruction of democracy though he brought onboard other principles that led to a more balanced system. The “Civil code of 1804, which is often referred to as the Napoleonic Code-did away with privileges based on birth, established equality before the law and secured the right to property” (Malhotra, pars. 6).

This code was replicated in other states that were controlled by France. “In the Dutch Republic, in Switzerland, in Italy and Germany”, the administrative divisions were made simple, feudalism done away with and freedom from serfdom offered to peasants (Social Origins of Democracy).

Before nationalism was established in “Europe, Germany, Italy and Switzerland were divided into kingdoms, Duchies and cantons whose rulers had autonomous territories of which lived diverse people”. The individual groups in these countries communicated in different dialects and never envisioned themselves coming together “under a common culture or collective identity” (Malhotra, pars. 5). The groups had only the emperor as common factor.

In terms of social and political status, the aristocrats were the foremost class in Europe. Members of this class were drawn from different regions and were unified by similar lifestyles which were basically defined by owning estates in the countryside in addition to townhouses, speaking French for societal status or diplomatic reasons among others (Malhotra, pars. 4). The aristocrats constituted a small percentage of the population that was dominated by peasants.

In the 19th century, the concept of national unity was closely associated with the notion of liberalism (Revesz 45). Liberalism, as interpreted by the emerging middle classes was seen as a concept that emphasized “freedom for an individual and equality of all before the law” (Malhotra, pars. 6).

A political definition depicted the term stood for “Government by consent” (Revesz, 56). However, equality before the law did not have the same meaning as universal suffrage.

In France, the initial steps to the attainment of liberal democracy had several downsides. For instance, “the right to vote and get elected was granted exclusively to property owning men. Men without property and women were excluded from all political rights” (Malhotra, pars. 7). Thus in the 19th the new middle class based their strong demands on these practices.

The “defeat of Napoleon led to the establishment of conservatism whereby established traditional institutions such as the church, monarchy and social hierarchies were to be conserved” (Malhotra, pars. 6). “Conservative regimes became so autocratic and did not tolerate any criticism and dissent” which led to the rise of many secret societies composed of liberals (Social Origins of Democracy, pars. 4). This culminated into revolutions that ended in the creation of nations states.


This paper sought to describe the sequence of things that led to Reformation, the rise of nationalism and finally the development of universal laws. It has been established that the reformation of the church and the resulting wars formed a strong foundation for the establishment of nationalism (Malhotra, pars. 4). It has been established that the first forms of nationalism were expressed after the French revolution.

Works Cited

Malhotra, Jyoti. THE RISE OF NATIONALISM IN EUROPE. June 2009. Web.

Revesz, Imre. History of the Hungarian Reformed Church, Knight. Washington D.C: Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, 1956. Print

Social Origins of Democracy. February 2010. Web.1 November 2010 <>.

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