History Podcasts

Why did nationalism in all of Europe surge in the 19th century?

Why did nationalism in all of Europe surge in the 19th century?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Nationalism in all parts of Europe surged in the 19th century, the centuries old multinational states of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary broke apart and by the end of the century this jingoism culminated in World War I.

How come?

As always in history it's multiple causes acting simultaneously and causes leading to other causes. I want to know how and why nationalism rose everywhere.

Can it be claimed that it started with the Greek war for independence and that the effect and success of creating a small nation-state for the first time (Kingdom of Greece) fueled the others in their nationalism? And did this originate from a "fault" on the Ottoman side?


Who protects your daily security? Who does your loyalty belong to?

Initially (in the middle ages), the answer was your local nobleman, and, through him, via the duke and/or kind, to the Holy Roman Emperor.

Someone had to provide peace, and the choice was limited: whoever has won military control over your area most recently. As long as they did not interfere with your religious life and did not assess too much taxes, it was okay.

One's ethnicity was a private matter - like religion today.

The French revolution offered a practical implementation of what was spelled out by the thinkers of the Enlightenment - that "someone" is not really necessary, We The People can handle our peace ourselves.

This meant that you don't have to chose your suzerain from the existing list, you join forces with your neighbors and create a better country.

Napoleon's military successes illustrated that idea: you do not have to be lead by blue blood.

Why change?

Trade was growing in importance (industrial revolution &c), and, thus, infrastructure (roads &c) became critical.

Thus replacing one's loyalty to some remote potentate who didn't even speak your language with a someone local makes a lot of sense.

Why nationalism?

Printing press made books cheap, so literacy started to make sense even for lower classes. Printing in vernacular languages was a response to that. Thus the European society transformed itself from "educated people communicate in Latin, especially long distance" to "people read and write in a local language". This lead to an intellectual fragmentation of Europe:

Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its peoples led to the rise of proto-nationalism, accelerated by the flowering of the European vernacular languages to the detriment of Latin's status as lingua franca.


It was in large part due to the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

First, France had a revolution that led to the composition of the national anthem, La Marseillaise, that started French national feeling.

Napoleon's invasion of Germany, and the creation of the Conferation of the Rhine consolidated a bunch of "church" holdings into far fewer "states" that later formed the basis of German nationalism.

The creation of the Duchy of Warsaw led to a (temporary) resurgence of Polish nationalism.

The invasion of Russia and ultimate defeat of Napoleon stirred up Russian national feeling, as outlined in "War and Peace. To perhaps a lesser extent, this was true in Austria and Prussia as well.

Napoleon's invasion of Italy supported the continued consolidation of much of that country into a few power blocs (e.g. the Papal States, Naples-Sicily, etc.), mostly united against the "outsider."

Although he crowned himself Emperor, Napoleon had piggybacked on the French Revolution, and he was basically a "revolutionary" in the sense that he was a "leader" with non-royal blood. That paved the way for "similar" leaders like Greece's Rigas Feraios or Hungary's Lajos Kossuth.

Admittedly, these examples were from western Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, but they set examples for eastern Europe, and in the second half of the century.


Watch the video: 19th Century Europe and the Rise of Nationalism History Podcast Lecture, Part 1 (May 2022).