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To What Extent And In What Ways Did German Nationalism Change And Grow In The Years 1890 1914?

1619 words - 7 pages

By 1890, Germany had been a nation state for almost 20 years. Liberal nationalism was dying from its own success, and a new brand of popular ideas on the German Volk and fatherland was emerging to represent the generation which had been born in the boundaries of a German state, and was now reaching adulthood. Necessarily, these ideas would adopt foundations of German cultural superiority and common identity which had been espoused at the start of the century, and this was encouraged by colonialism. This popular nationalism was encouraged by the more active climate of public debate and freer politics. They were also no doubt affected by the position of the army in German society and the ...view middle of the document...

Even cultural and racial minorities felt assimilated to a surprising degree. Jewish success in the bourgeoisie and High society made them feel “thoroughly German” and the political successes of the Centre party and SDP made Catholics and workers feel as though they were a well-represented part of the country’s political and social make up, and not subjugated by their protestant or cultural overlords.
Politics at the time became much more open and influenced by popular opinion, and as a result, German nationalism became part of a popular movement, released from its earlier esoteric forms. Though the nobility were still highly represented in government, their voices were diluted by the clamouring of the crowds and the newspapers, and the government did not always favour narrow Prussian Junker interests, evidenced by the construction of the Mittelland canal in the face of their vigorous protests. Certainly, expanding education, and a free atmosphere of public debate (many newspapers felt able to censure the Kaiser) coincided with expansion of the press to effect a more extensively politicised public sphere; even village newspapers provided political coverage and analysis. What is more, a highly active form of popular politics began to emerge, shown by the extensive participation in elections: 84% of the electorate voted in the Reichstag election of 1812, and by the enormous number of new initiatives and political groups that emerged from the whole political spectrum during this period, among which nationalism was well represented. The “aloof and distant noble politics” of the 1870s and 1880s had disappeared, and the trend pointed towards the expansion of civil rights, or at least the rejection of oppressive measures such as the Revolution Bill and the Hard Labour Bill that had once found homes in the government. Popular nationalism was undoubtedly a part of this movement.
The “special position” of the armed forces in Germany promoted a militant nationalism to emerge, along with the still relatively authoritarian nature of the political system. This was largely a product of far-right ideology on issues such as protective tariffs, which served to strengthen the boundaries of the state by adding to the economic element of nationhood. These militaristic elements of German society also heightened the antagonism towards certain groups such as free trade liberals, and minorities, adding an element of ‘enemy of the state’ to conservative nationalist attitudes. Military ideas concerning the nature of German politics encroached on the debate over nationalism, adding to this conservative position: ideas such as a coup against the constitution in favour of the monarchy were “in the air of German political life.” Finally, the jingoistic attitude of not just the military, but of German foreign policy during this period added a great degree of energy and popularity to this militant wing of nationalism.
The state encouraged this brand of militant nationalism...

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