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Nationalism in Europe

Updated November 1, 2018

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Nationalism in Europe essay

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Nineteenth century Europe, exploding with Nationalism, shows us how powerful a nation can be when united for a common cause. Nationalism is the love and devotion to ones country, where devotion stands for the spirit to protect the needs and ideals of the nation. Nationalism acted as a unifying force in Europe for much of the nineteenth century when unification movements were frequent. The unification of Italy and Germany, are prime examples of nationalism at work. By the end of the French revolution and Napoleanic wars, nationalism was growing rampant among the neighboring countries of France leading to an increasing amount of unification motions.

The extraordinary unification of these two divided areas proves how a strong sense of nationalism truly is a unifying force. The early eighteen hundreds was a time of separation for the “Geographic Expression” which we call Italy is today. All that held back Italy from its unification (1859-1919) was the power complex’s of a few greedy officials such as the Pope and Local rulers who feared losing land and power; Most of all however was the Austrian power overhead who wished to maintain a weaker neighbor to the south. Fed up with disunity, an Italian nationalist named Guisseppe Messini founded a secret society called “Young Italy”. It was the duty of this society to overthrow foreign tyrants such as Austria and establish an Italian republic for which the leader is voted upon. Messini, also known as the “Soul”, was the true benefactor who excited the people of Italy to unite.

As made evident in Document 1, the people united and prepared to defend there needs as a uniting country. This excerpt from the French Leve en Masse dating back as far as 1793, during the French revolution. Though thousands of miles away and more than thirty years before any of Italy’s own reformation acts, the idea behind this excerpt is the same. The only way to defeat a common enemy, whether it be foreign tyrants of your own corrupt monarch, is to come together and work as a whole to take the nation into your own hands.

The “Brains” of the Italian unification is said to be a man by the name of Count Camillo Cavour. Cavour, a well-educated politician, is the contributor of the main plan to the unification. Appointed by King Victor Emanuel of Sardinia, Count Cavour became the new Prime Minister there. As Prime Minister of Sardinia, the economy was improved, the military power increased (for the upcoming unification), and most importantly, he overthrow Austria with the help of Napoleon III, winning back North Italian land.

As in document 2, the only objective that Cavour was concerned with was the expelling of foreigners to “elevate the Italian people in intelligence and moral development. With the foreign threat eliminated, Italy could also become a very “powerful and glorious” nation. Even after the drastic changes made by Count Camillo Cavour, the Italian unification was still incomplete. With the threat of Austria’s wrath out of the picture, a nationalist general named Giuseppe Garibaldi also known as the “sword” of the unification, led an army of 1,000 volunteers known as “red-shirts” for the scarlet shirts they wore. Garibaldi and the red-shirts, overflowing with nationalism successfully revolted against the kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Also in 1860, Sardinian soldiers overran the Popes land (Papal States), nearly uniting the entire peninsula of Italy. With nationalism so strong in the hearts of the Italians, the church was stripped of all its land excluding Rome, which would eventually be taken too during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. “O noble Thousand!I love to remember you!” (Doc. 3) were the words of Giuseppe Garibaldi when addressing his troops and praising them for the fantastic efforts they put forth to unite Italy.

At the same time however, Garibaldi also proves to the citizens of Italy how the only way to be a true nationalist is to act upon your beliefs rather than speak them. Nevertheless, those who were true nationalists in the unification applied a force great enough to take down a power full foreign tyrant and the Pope himself. By 1815, the Holy Roman Empire was permanently made up of thirty-eight German states in contrast to the previous three hundred states of 1789. The people of Germany could easily see that something had to be done about the division of their homeland. As with all Nationalist movements, there must be some sort of common bond between the people of the country; In Germany, this common bond was language and history. Nationalism was also spurred in Germany by the combined hatred of Austria and a common economy.

In document 5, the castle represents the building blocks of German Unification. Directly above the basis of Nationalism, is the “Zollverein”. The Zollverein was a customs (tariff) union formed in 1819 that did not include Austria. By excluding Austria, the German states could increase their economic status by removing taxes on exported/imported goods for members and continuing taxes for Austria and non-members.

With a growing economy, an attempt to make a democratic form of government was made but flopped when King Fredrick William IV cowardly refused the crown in fear of Austria; Germany remained to be an Absolute Monarchy. In 1861, Otto van Bismarck was appointed Prime Minister of Prussia, the most powerful German State. Bismarck’s Policy of uniting Germany, though rash, was effective in gaining back the states lost by previous campaigns. A policy of “Blood and Iron” was set forth for German Armies; This militaristic view point sent the ununited German states into several continuous wars, thus leading to the final unification of Germany in 1871. “Not able to avoid serious contest with Austriacan only be settled by blood and iron” were some of Otto Van Bismarck’s words in document 4.

Bismarck’s form of nationalism shows that there are multiple ways to unify a country, based on his radical policies. Unfortunately, in later years, Bismarck’s harsh militaristic pollicies brought about the First World War. As displayed by the Italian and German unifications of the 18th and 19th centuries, nationalism of any form is most definitely a unifying force. Italy and Germany are but examples of this force, and a part of a long list of countries whom have experienced overflowing nationalism in their own historical background. Even in America nationalism had taken the people of the original colonies by storm and gave them the motivation and force to remove themselves from the oppression of the English “Mother Country” in 1776, nearly the same time as the many European Nationalist movements.

However, it does not take a rebellion or unification for people of the world to feel a sense of Nationalism. Nationalism should be felt every time we recite the pledge, remember our veterans, or even when we are just walking down the street it is acceptable to feel proud of our country and all for which it stands. Bibliography:

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Nationalism in Europe. (2018, Nov 08). Retrieved from