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Nationalism In 18th Century Europe Essay

1799 words - 8 pages

Throughout the nineteenth century three political ideals began influencing states and their 
citizens like no other ideals had done before. These ideals were liberalism, socialism and, the 
most important, nationalism. Each one possessed its own uniqueness which inspired mass 
followings of people that would last thoroughly into the twentieth century. Each one also proved 
to form a catalyst for the modernisation of many European countries. However, in comparison, 
none of these ideals had the impact that the nationalistic approach had. This is due to many 
reasons which ranged from the fact that not everyone was affected by socialism or that ninety 
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’1 In this scholarly work, I 
will endeavour to display the significant authority nationalism controlled over governments 
throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while highlighting both the positive 
and negative consequences that resulted from nationalist approaches. 
 
We, fittingly, begin our look at nationalism in the inaugural country to embrace the ideal, 
France. However, up until around 1870, there was a greater importance, from every aspect of 
French society, placed on loyalty to the separate provinces rather than the state itself. Towards 
the end of the nineteenth century, France underwent a huge modernisation and industrialisation 

1

Jonathan Fenby, ​ General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved​
The
(London: Simon & Schuster,
2010), p.45
 

duration. These societal changes are attributed, along with the development of nationalism, to 
‘morphing the common French peasant into a civilised Frenchman.’2 A sense of identity was 
given to the French peasantry that only nationalism could provide. The peasants, unable to speak 
French, became isolated and alienated from the urban French population. However, with 
industrialisation came closer relations with French speaking city communities which helped 
assimilate the peasantry while ridding them of traditional stereotypes such as poor hygiene and 
inappropriate clothing. Change was the favored worldview and as school became the realm of 
inspiring patriotism through the use of songs, gymnastics, and writing. France condemned itself 
as a kingdom and viewed itself as a fatherland. Visual tools such as maps were changed to reflect 
their changing perception of what France was as a nation. In these ways, the peasants became 
socialised to the expectations of higher French society. Military conflict brought an additional 
push forward toward nationalism and political solidarity3. Nationalism strengthened as a result of 
growing military presence that was necessitated by the French Revolution and Franco­Prussian 
War. The Great War further strengthened nationalism and patriotism due to the need for the 
conscription of soldiers. The conscription of soldiers into the military, created an environment 
that relied on the connectedness that the soldiers felt for their country since there was a lack of 
other motives for individual soldiers to fight for a specific cause. This self­determination to fight 
for one’s country was inspired by the immense nationalistic and patriotic pride that existed 
within Europe; no other political ideal could inspire such unwavering loyalty. Empires that 
contained many nations could not survive in the total war state that characterises modern warfare 
during the Great War. The Great War, as it did with every country currently riding the 
nationalism tidal wave, aided the growth of the ideal in France through the increased government 
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