Essay, Research Paper: Nationalism


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During the 100-year period of 1814 to 1914 every social group throughout Europe
embraced the ideology of nationalism. Its success was largely due to the fact
that it offered something for everyone regardless of social or political status.
It had no specific ideas for government or economy, just simply whatever is best
for the nation. Nationalism also combined well with all other ideologies of the
time. However, the different classes of European society accepted nationalism
for different reasons and at different times. In the years 1814 through 1848
nationalism ascended onto European society through the middle class. Shortly
after the French Revolution in 1814 the Congress of Vienna was placed in charge
of reconstructing Europe. In France the monarchy was restored. By 1830, Louis
Philippe was king of France and had transformed their political system into a
government by which only the rich could vote known as the Bourgeois Monarchy.
Increasing social and economic discontent in France led the middle class to
revolt in 1848. This revolution set up the Second Republic and gave all men in
France the right to vote, creating a unifying thread throughout the country. In
Germany, the German Confederation was created which left 39 individual,
segregated German states. Due to the fact of taxes and tariffs many middle class
business owners supported the idea of a single unified nation-state. However,
conservatives at that time did all they could to stop the ideas of liberalism
and nationalism. But, by 1830 the middle class had grown large enough to force a
revolution. The middle class soon after created a National Parliament and in
1848 the Frankfurt Assembly gathered delegates from all of the German states to
create boundaries for a new unified nation-state. Unfortunately, before they
were able to apply their plan German kings charged in with their large armies
and stopped the revolution. Although it was stopped the revolution in Germany
along with the revolution in France helped to create firm foundation for the
spread of nationalism. During the time period of 1848 to 1871 the aristocracy
and the upper class embraced nationalism. Prior to 1848 conservatives felt like
the idea of nationalism was a threat to their power. After 1848 however,
conservatives learned to adopted nationalism into their own ideology. They saw,
through revolts, the dangers of simply disregarding nationalism and found it
more beneficial to simply compromise and blend the two together. Otto Von
Bismark modernized nationalism by combining it with conservatism and his own
brand of hardheaded government he called Realpolitik. Inspired by patriotism for
his country and loyalty to his king Bismark sought to unite all of the German
nation-states. In 1866, as a means to unite the northern German states, Germany
fought against Austria in the Austro-Prussian War. Four years later in 1870,
Bismark engineered the Franco-Prussian War in order to incorporate the southern
German states into the new unified Germany. Bismark knew the unifying power of
having a common enemy. Other countries such as France, Austria, and Russia used
the “us versus them” side of nationalism to spur national sentiment and
unification among their countries also. Between the years of 1871 and 1914 the
workers and the lower classes seemed to benefit the most from nationalism. It
was during this time the second Industrial Revolution occurred. The development
of new industry, transportation, communication, power, and energy made everyday
life much simpler for the common man. Also, at the beginning of the 20th century
national labor unions were legalized. Many other social reforms were made during
this time also. In 1884 Germany activated accident insurance plans for workers
in factories. In 1889, pension plans, like modern-day social security, were
established in Germany. Universal manhood suffrage also became legal for all of
Europe between 1871 and 1914. Mass society and culture was extremely important
in the spreading of nationalism among the lower classes. Mass society and
culture helped to create a feeling of togetherness and unity. Through tools like
the cinema, dance halls, and sporting events people could be brought together in
large groups, which offered a sense of community and family. Also, the idea of
Social Darwinism aided in the spread of nationalism. The belief that one’s own
nation is superior or at least the strongest helped to create a feeling of
patriotism and pride among the lower classes. I believe that the spread of
nationalism throughout European society was a positive development. Nationalism
helped to unite people with a common history and culture. It instilled pride and
confidence among nations and gave people a sense of being. Unlike the other
ideologies of the time, nationalism proposed self-sacrifice for the good of
others. However, I believe that at the beginning of the 20th century the idea of
Social Darwinism corrupted it and allowed nationalism to be twisted by those who
would exploit it. But, overall I feel that it had a positive effect on European
society. It offered something to believe in when there wasn’t much to believe
in. I truly believe that the basic idea of nationalism is something that our
country needs today. “Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you
can do for your country.”--- John F. Kennedy
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