Home » Nationalism, Political Loyalties

Nationalism, Political Loyalties

Nationalism is a popular sentiment that places the existence and well-being of the nation highest in the scale of political loyalties. In political terms, it signifies a person’s willingness to work for the nation against foreign domination, whether political, economic, or cultural. Nationalism also implies a group’s consciousness of shared history, language, race, and values. Its significance lies in its role in supplying the ties that make the nation-state a cohesive viable entity.

Nationalism belongs to the modern world. Before the 18th century, people gave their loyalty to their communities, tribes, feudal lords, princes, religious groups, or other universal principles. Borders could thus be changed without popular outcry against the violation of national integrity. For example, when Louis XIV of France seized the free imperial city of Strasbourg on the Rhine in 1681, the people of the city accepted him as their king. By the 19th century, however, nationalist sentiments were strong.

When Germany annexed Strasbourg (and the rest of Alsace-Lorraine) in 1871, its citizens felt bitter resentment at the dismemberment of the French nation. Among the first modern manifestations of nationalism was the French Revolution (1789). Starting as a crusade for “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” the French Revolution turned into a war of the French people against foreign aggressors. When Napoleon took power and began to create a French empire, other nations fought back. From Spain to Russia, peoples rose in defense of their nations against French imperialism.

The German philosopher Johann Gottlieb FICHTE delivered his Addresses to the German Nation (1807-08) specifically against Napoleon. After Napoleon’s fall, nationalism continued to develop. At the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), Belgium was given to the Netherlands, but 15 years later the Belgians revolted and gained their national independence. In Italy the drive toward nationhood, led by Giuseppe MAZZINI, Camillo CAVOUR, and Giuseppe GARIBALDI, occupied much of the century. Germany, a mere grouping of states in 1815, was unified under the direction of Prussian chancellor Otto von BISMARCK in 1871.

The many national groups in the Austrian empire became increasingly restive during the 19th century and finally achieved independence at the end of World War I. In the interwar years exaggerated German nationalism culminated in the excesses of NAZISM. Italian FASCISM was also based on strongly nationalistic principles. The power of nationalism can be seen in the history of modern SOCIALISM, which began as an international workers’ movement. When World War I broke out in 1914, the European socialist parties abandoned internationalism and supported their national governments.

The Soviet Communists who took power in Russia in 1917 proclaimed the beginning of an international movement in behalf of working classes everywhere, only to become nationalistic as time went on. Communists in other countries, such as China and Vietnam, have developed their own types of nationalism. Nationalism spread in Asia and Africa during the struggle against colonialism after World Wars I and II. Nationalist movements succeeded in such important countries as Egypt and India. Within the first 25 years after World War II, 66 new nations were created. Today nationalism remains a strong ideology and an important force in world politics.

It was a contributing factor in the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the motive force behind the violence in what was Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The Italian Risorgimento (resurgence) was the liberal, nationalist movement for unification (1796-1870). Its origins lay in a nationalistic reaction against the invasion and occupation of Italy by Napoleon Bonaparte (later NAPOLEON I), and it culminated with the annexation of Rome in 1870. The Risorgimento was not an irresistible forward movement of liberal nationalism but a process occurring in fits and starts, and one interrupted by many internal conflicts.

With the majority of Italians remaining on the sidelines through most of the struggle, Italy was unified in large measure by an opportunistic intellectual elite and with considerable foreign assistance, especially from the France of NAPOLEON III. In 1815 the Congress of VIENNA restored the old European order, bringing back most of the rulers who had been ousted during the Napoleonic era. Prince METTERNICH of Austria regained Lombardy, annexed Venetia, and indirectly dominated most of the rest of the Italian peninsula. The pope recovered the Papal States embracing Rome and the central region.

The Kingdom of Naples and Sicily reverted to the Bourbons. Only the Kingdom of SARDINIA-Piedmont was free of foreign control, but its ruling SAVOY dynasty, despite a reputation as a military power, did not become interested in unification until 1848. The first Risorgimento movement was sparked by the CARBONARI, a secret organization that fomented unsuccessful popular uprisings in the 1820s. More important was the republican Young Italy movement, led by Giuseppe MAZZINI. Founded in 1831, it called for liberation through grass-roots revolts.

Mazzini wanted to replace the existing states with a single, unitary republic with Rome as its capital. His influence peaked during the REVOLUTIONS OF 1848. Mazzini’s republicanism frightened the more moderate Italian leaders into offering competing programs. Vincenzo Gioberti’s Catholic neo-Guelph group hoped to enlist the papacy in the national cause, but PIUS IX repudiated the Risorgimento in 1848. More significantly, the conte di CAVOUR, prime minister of Sardinia-Piedmont (1852-59, 1860-61), took steps to unite Italy as a liberal parliamentary monarchy under the house of Savoy.

Realizing that he needed foreign help, Cavour skillfully enlisted the support of Napoleon III in a joint war against Austria in 1859, thereby acquiring Lombardy. The next year Romagna, Parma, Modena, and Tuscany voted for union with Sardinia-Piedmont. In exchange for recognizing this arrangement, France received Savoy and Nice. In 1860, Giuseppe GARIBALDI conquered Sicily and Naples with his Red Shirts. The Kingdom of Italy, headed by Sardinian king VICTOR EMMANUEL II, was proclaimed in March 1861 after Sardinia absorbed Umbria and the Marches and the Two Sicilies chose union with Sardinia.

Venetia was acquired as a result of Italy’s alliance with Prussia in the SEVEN WEEKS’ WAR (1866). Rome, which was seized when a French garrison was withdrawn during the Franco-Prussian War (1870), soon became the capital of Italy. ctor Emmanuel II, b. Mar. 14, 1820, d. Jan. 9, 1878, a member of the SAVOY dynasty, was king of Sardinia-Piedmont (1849-61) and of Italy (1861-78). In 1848-49 he took part in the unsuccessful wars against Austria (see REVOLUTIONS OF 1848).

Ascending the throne of Sardinia after the abdication of his father, Charles Albert, Victor Emmanuel preserved the new constitution that resulted from that revolt. In 1852 he appointed as premier the conte di CAVOUR, whose maneuverings were to make Victor Emmanuel the first king of a united Italy by 1861. In the Franco-Sardinian war against Austria in 1859, the king commanded Italian forces at Magenta and Solferino. He wisely restrained Cavour from continuing this war alone after France withdrew from it. In 1860 he secretly encouraged Giuseppe GARIBALDI to conquer Sicily and Naples.

Victor Emmanuel then sent his army into papal territory, where it defeated the papal army at Castelfidardo and joined Garibaldi’s force. The king took a more active part in government after Cavour died in 1861. With Prussian help, he annexed Venetia in 1866 and Rome in 1870, thereby completing the Italian RISORGIMENTO. Victor Emmanuel was succeeded as king of Italy by Humbert I, his son. The Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, sometimes called the “Iron Chancellor,” was the architect of German unification and the arbiter of European power politics in the second half of the 19th century.

Bismarck was born at Schonhausen in Brandenburg on Apr. 1, 1815. His father came of the old Prussian nobility, his mother from the upper bourgeoisie. Distaste for the study of law and bureaucracy caused Bismarck to turn to management of the family estates in Brandenburg. There he was converted to the fundamentalist religious views of the Lutheran pietists. During the REVOLUTIONS OF 1848 , Bismarck gained political notice in Prussia as an extreme reactionary, who supported suppression of revolt and continued Austrian leadership in Germany.

As Prussian minister to the GERMAN CONFEDERATION in Frankfurt (1851-59), he adopted the independent line of realpolitik, backing a policy based on Prussian interests, without regard for ideology, or humanitarianism. He now supported the ZOLLVEREIN against Austria, favored cooperation with NAPOLEON III of France, and opposed intervention in the internal affairs of other states in the interest of legitimate sovereigns. After briefly representing Prussia at St. Petersburg and Paris he was summoned home to become (Sept. 22, 1862) minister president and foreign minister for the Prussian king (later German emperor) WILLIAM I.

After proclaiming the policy of “iron and blood,” Bismarck defied the Prussian Chamber of Deputies, which was locked in a constitutional conflict with the king, by implementing army reforms, administering without an approved budget, and following an independent foreign policy. His diplomacy brought victorious wars with Denmark (over SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, 1864) and Austria (the SEVEN WEEKS’ WAR of 1866), as a result of which the chamber passed an indemnity bill (in effect forgiving Bismarck’s constitutional transgressions) and approved past budgets.

With Austria excluded by force from Germany the North German Confederation was formed (July 14, 1867) under Prussian control. Under the constitution of the new state the Prussian king retained control of the army and policy-making, and the chancellor (Bismarck) was responsible only to him. The Bundesrat (federal council) represented the interests of the separate states, while in the parliament, or REICHSTAG, universal adult male suffrage (which Bismarck had discussed with the socialist Ferdinand LASSALLE) was instituted.

In 1870, Bismarck’s backing of a HOHENZOLLERN prince as candidate for the Spanish throne, coupled with his inflammatory editing of the Ems Dispatch (a message from William I to Napoleon III), had the desired effect of provoking France into the FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR. France was rapidly defeated, the German Empire (including the southern German states) was proclaimed at Versailles on Jan. 18, 1871, and Bismarck was named prince and German chancellor. The 1867 constitution was retained, and Bismarck also maintained civilian control over the army with William.

He was thus able to block preventive war in the following years. Bismarck’s foreign policy was now directed at maintaining and strengthening the power of the German Empire, which he saw as satiated territorially. Its security was ensured by marshaling its political and diplomatic resources in Europe and by isolating France diplomatically. When the Three Emperors’ League (1873) with Russia and Austria disintegrated as a result of rivalry in the Balkans, Bismarck sought to mediate as an “honest broker” at the Congress of Berlin (1878; see BERLIN, CONGRESS OF).

Increasing Russian hostility brought–against William’s wishes–the Dual Alliance with Austria (1879), which became the TRIPLE ALLIANCE when Italy joined it in 1882. Bismarck, however, sought to tie Russia to this alliance by reviving the Three Emperors’ League (1881-87) and through the Reinsurance Treaty (1887-90). He also gained British cooperation. Domestically in alliance with the National Liberals from 1867 to 1877, Bismarck extended the powers of the imperial government, adopted laissez-faire economic policies, and fought the political power of the Roman Catholic church in the KULTURKAMPF.

The growth of the Catholic Center party and the challenges created by an economic depression (1873-96) brought a break with the liberals and the abandonment of laissez-faire. With Conservative, intermittent Center, and some remnants of National Liberal support, he embarked upon a policy of protective tariffs, suppression of the Social Democrats under August BEBEL, and pioneering social welfare measures, including insurance against illness, accident, and old age.

Increasing socialist strength and the desire of the new emperor, WILLIAM II, to conciliate his people brought Bismarck’s dismissal on Mar. , 1890. Until his death on July 30, 1898, he devoted his time to attacking his successors and dictating his savage reminiscences (1898; trans. by A. J. Butler as Bismarck, the Man and the Statesman, 1898). Bismarck unified Germany and maintained European peace for a generation, but he also perpetuated the obsolete dominance of the Prussian landed aristocracy (JUNKERS) and upper middle class, as well as a tradition of intolerance of partisan and personal dissent. Under William II, Bismarck’s alliance system (with crucial modifications) contributed to World War I and the collapse of the German Empire.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.