Home Learn Polity Political Science Article

Political Science Article

Political Science Article

Nationalism and nation building which led to creation of nation-state is one of the main characteristics of the history of modern Europe. The process of nation building was completed in two phases. The first phase was completed by the begin¬ning of 16th century. It saw emer¬gence of nation states in England, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Portugal. The second phase belongs to 19th century and during this phase nation building took place in Central Europe. Its main products were the unifications of Italy and Germany.
The First Phase
The first phase saw emergence of a new type of state. This type of state was different not only from J an empire, but also from city states and regional states. In words of historian C.J.H. Hayes, “It was kind of state which hardly existed in ancient times and which had evolved only slowly and dimly during the middle Ages. It was the medium sized ‘national’ state, the political entity which was to become the unit of the modern state system of Europe.”
By year 1500 such political states had come into existence in France, England, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Poland etc. These states were created by unifica¬tion of small feudal units and, “Each of them possesses a population, the core of which is a single nationality, with distinctive language, literature and self-consciousness.” The hundred year war (1337-1453) played an important role in the creation of nation states in France and England. The war resulted in England being pushed back from Europe. It became a well defined island state. The war enabled France to achieve its natural frontiers and become a well defined geo-political unit. The Crusades, emergence of middle classes, coming into existence of professional state armies and propagation of the ide¬ology supporting the creation of national state were contributory factors which helped in the emer¬gence of national state. Machiavelli in his famous work Prince (1513) argued in a convincing manner that national monarchy as a form of government is preferable to any other form of government.
“All the factors which have just been described cooperated to produce in sixteenth century a group of powerful national states which were politically independent of Holy Roman Empire and of each other, and which, under ambitious and frequently unscrupulous monarchs, were uprooting feudalism, under-mining the church and paving the way for a modern political regime very different from that of previous centuries. They heralded the rise of modern nationalism and the advent of divine right absolute monarchy” (Hayes). By the end of 15th century, England had become a real national monarchy and the king was becom¬ing more and more powerful with the passage of time. At the same time, on the continent of Europe, the national monarchy of France was consolidat¬ing itself, territorially as well as, politically. This process of consoli¬dation of national monarchy was very slow and painful. But, by the year 1500 France had become a national monarchy. It had created its own national literature and develo¬ped feelings of national patriotism which centered in the king. The people of France had become con¬scious of their distinct identity. The king Louis XI (1461-1483) played an important role in making France a national monarchy. National monar¬chies of Spain and Portugal deve-loped overcoming the divisive forces and conflict between Christianity and Islam. In Portugal, a line of competent rulers and a series of discoveries played important role in creating national state. By the year 1500 Portu¬gal had a language and literature of its own. In Spain national monarchy had not matured by the year 1500 and it was still passing through the process of becoming a national monarchy. In the North West Europe the national states of Denmark, Sweden and Norway were built during the Middle ages. Similarly, some small national states had emerged in the East Europe. The emergence of national monarchies fostered the growth of national patriotism and spirit of nationalism. “Altogether, there were more than thirty nationalities in Europe. And by the year 1500 some of them were developing a self consciousness and a National patriotism which boded ill both to the petty medieval divi¬sions of feudalism and to the older unity of Christendom.”
The Second Phase
The second phase of nationalism and nation building belongs to 19th century. The Central Europe was the center stage of this process and the unification of Germany and Italy were its main achievements.
There were a number of factors which contributed to emergence of nationalism and nation building in 19th century. The great French revo¬lution of 1789 had bequeathed the principles of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. The principle of fraternity referred to common bond and the spirit of brotherhood which inculca¬ted national patriotism and unity. The revolutionary era was followed by that of Napoleon. Napoleon’s armies when they conquered or invaded countries of Europe, they carried with them and spread the principles of French revolution. The loot, plunder and humiliation caused by the presence of French armies on their soil energized the people of that country against the alien foe and roused and consolidated spirit of national patriotism. Finally, Napoleon by redrawing political maps of these countries, particularly of Germany and Italy, and by destroying a 
number of smaller political entities and creating larger political units, prepared ground for geo-political unification which is a must for nation building and creation of nation state. Napoleon created kingdom of Italy which united North and Central Italy. This fostered desire of Unification of Italy. To quote C. J. H. Hayes “Napoleonic empire was comparati¬vely short lived. But it had trem¬endous importance in spreading throughout Europe, directly or indirectly, certain novel principles which it inherited from the French revolution.” He goes on to say, “Of all the lessons which Europe learned from France during the Napoleonic era the most common and impres¬sive was nationalism.”
Nationalism and nation building in 19th century was not simply the result of ideas of French revolution and the policies of Napoleon only. As a matter of fact greater contribution was made by philosophers, ideo¬logues and men of letters of these countries.
If the principle of nationalism evoked quick response in Europe “In part, this was the result of indepen-dent agitation of intellectuals in various countries who, like the French revolutionaries themselves, have been given a nationalist turn of mind by their reading of eighteenth century philosophy and literature.”
In Germany, the three great philosophers Fichte, Hegel and Kant gave a new direction to idealist philosophy. Kant was a pioneer in the romantic thought of 19th century. His political ideas were influenced by ideas of French revolutionaries and Rousseau. Fichte used his idealist philosophy to rouse national patrio¬tism against Napoleonic imperialism. Hegel, too, was an idealist who gave the Germans idea of German national spirit. He evoked a sense of pride by telling them that third stage of deve¬lopment of mankind was the German state. The three great philosophers, in their own inimitable way, made important contribution to growth of German nationalism.
In the Central Europe nationalism was in harmony with philosophies of Romanticism and Liberalism. The nationalist “displayed patriotic emotions and sentiments; usually they extolled the common people of their respective nationalities; and frequently they ransacked historical records to find evidence of their nation’s glorious deeds in the past. All these nationalist attitude and endeavours harmonized nicely with romanticism.” Romanticism is looked upon as reaction against rationalism of 18th century. The 18th century relied on reason. But the romantics of 19th century put their faith in emo-tion. Thus, romanticism put emphasis on individualism and individual’s creativity. But “at the same time, by stressing the inheritance of attitudes, it also celebrated the past. And that celebration was its link with nationalism.” The author of World Civilization goes on to write, “Romanticism and nationalism were connected by their common belief that past should be made to function as means to understand present and planning for the future.”
This notion was in full bloom in Germany in early decades of 19th century. Johann Von Herder (1744- 1807) was one of the earliest and the most influential romantic thinkers of Germany. He insisted that a nation must be true to its heritage. He believed that civilization was the product of the culture of common people. Herder was followed by Schiegel (1772-1829) and Savigny (1779-1861). Both of them advocated the theory of organic evolution of society and state. This concept of organic evolution was fully develo¬ped by Hegel. “These theories of history ,ind historical development articulated by the romantics relate directly to idea of nationalism for-mulated during the same period” (World Civilization). The German philosopher Fichte (1762-1814) adopted Herder’s idea of volkgeist i.e., the spirit of the whole people represented in its traditions, customs and history. As the author of World Civilization writes “the humiliating French occupation of Prussia com¬bined with the growing sense of national destiny exemplified in the addresses of Fichte resulted in a drive on the part of Prussian intellectuals and political reformers to bring their country once more to its former position among European powers.”
Nationalism, thus, derived from romanticism expressed itself in many ways. The poet Schiller’s dramas roused national consciousness of the German people. Even the music reflected the spirit of nationalism.
In Italy, J. Mazzini (1805-1872) was the harbinger of the spirit of nationalism. He was for some time a member of the revolutionary secret society Carbonari. But, later on he founded another organization Young Italy. The declared goal of this orga¬nization was unification of Italian peninsula. The organization, accord¬ing to historian Ketelby, raised the slogan of “God, nationalism and Italy.” A staunch republican Mazzini launched scathing verbal assault on the royal house of Sardinia. But, later on, he concentrated on propagandiz¬ing the cause of Italian nationalism and republicanism. “Italian nationalism was primarily a middle class liberal phenomenon.”
Throughout the age of Metter- nich, notwithstanding the right reaction unleashed by him and the German kings and princes, spirit of liberalism was alive and kicking in all walks of life. The German patriots wanted unity of Germany. There was unrest among the youth and students who formed secret societies. Metter- nich and the rulers of various German states were able to chain the spirit of nationalism and unrest through measures, such as, Carlsbad Decrees, but they could not wipe it out.
In Italy also the dictates of Metternich ran, but here, too, “beneath the surface, liberalism seethed.” The Italian middle class, intelligentsia and urban population were under the influence of liberalism and “demand for constitutional government and national indepen¬dence grew louder gradually. As in so many other countries the Italian liberals employed underground means of agitation, and such secret societies as the Carbonari and Freemasons conducted a good deal of revolutionary propaganda.”