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The Rise of Nationalism in Europe | Class 10 History

The Representation of Nationalism and Start of Revolution in Europe

In 1848, Frédéric Sorrieu, a French artist, prepared a series of four prints visualizing his dream of a world made up of ‘democratic and social Republics’. His utopian vision where the peoples of the world are grouped as distinct nations, identified through their flags and national costume.

Frédéric Sorrieu's first print - The Dream of Worldwide Democratic and Social Republics

  • It shows the peoples of Europe and America – men and women of all ages and social classes – marching in a long train, and offering homage to the Statue of Liberty as they pass by it.

  • From the heavens above, Christ, saints and angels gaze upon the scene. They have been used by the artist to symbolize fraternity among the nations of the world.

  • Leading the march were the United States and Switzerland which were already nation states followed by France and then people of Germany, Kingdom of Austria, Lombardy, Two Sicilies, Ireland, Hungary, Russia etc. (Germany and other people were still to be organized as nation-states as of then)

  • The French artists also personified Liberty in the form of a personified figure bearing the torch of enlightenment in one hand and the charter of rights of man in another.

  • The symbols of absolutist institutions were shown shattered on the ground. The commonness of identity and shared history did not exist from time immemorial; it was forged through struggles, through the actions of leaders and the common people.

The end result of these changes was the emergence of the nation-state in place of the multinational dynastic empires of Europe. However the concept of modern state - in which a centralized power exercised sovereign control over a clearly defined territory, had been developing over a long period of time in Europe.

French Revolution and Nationalism

How did the French Revolution create a sense of nationalism?

The first clear expression of nationalism came with the French Revolution in 1789. The revolution proclaimed that it was the people who would henceforth constitute the nation and shape its destiny and the following measures and practices helped create a sense of collective belongingness.

  • The ideas of la patrie (the fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen) emphasized the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution.

  • A new French flag, the tricolor, was chosen to replace the former royal standard.

  • The Estates General was elected by active citizens and named the National Assembly

  • New hymns were composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated, all in the name of the nation

  • A centralized administrative system was put in place and it formulated uniform laws for all citizens within its territory.

  • Internal customs duties and dues were abolished and a uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.

  • Regional dialects were discouraged and French, as it was spoken and written in Paris, became the common language of the nation.

The French took the lead and the responsibility upon themselves to spread the idea of nationalism in Europe and free the people of Europe from despotic rule of the monarchs and clergy to help them become nations

Jacobin clubs were set up by the educated middle class and their activities helped the French army move into neighboring areas of Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy thus spreading the idea of nationalism.

Napoleon set out to introduce the reforms he had already introduced in France among other countries.

Napoleonic Code - The Civil Code of 1804

It is usually known as the Napoleonic Code – did away with all privileges based on birth, established equality before the law and secured the right to property. This Code was exported to the regions under French control. Following are some features of the Civil Code 1804:

  • Administrative divisions were simplified , the feudal system was abolished and peasants were freed from their manorial dues.

  • In towns, guild restrictions were removed. Transport and communication systems were improved.

  • Uniform laws, standardized weights and common currency were introduced which helped in trade.

By the Napoleonic Code, France had gone back to Monarchy as Napoleon had declared himself the ruler but the administrative changes and revolutionary principles had made the who system rational and efficient.

What was the reaction of neighboring states to Napoleon's nationalism?

In many places such as Holland, Switzerland and cities like Warsaw(Poland), Milan (Italy) and Brussels(Belgium) the French armies were welcomed as harbingers of liberty.

The businessmen, especially small scale producers began to realize that the economic changes brought by Napoleon such as uniform weights and measures, simplified laws and single currency would help in increase of trade from one territory to the other.

But the enthusiasm soon turned into hostility as the new administrative measures limited the political freedom as these changes were also coupled with increased taxation, censorship, forced recruitment into the French army and so on.

Nationalism in Europe

Diversity of Language and Culture in Europe

The kingdoms, duchies and cantons were regions with autocratic monarchies, especially in the Eastern and Central Europe. These were ruled by the nobility and the ruler and the ruled were from different cultures and did not share a collective identity. The people spoke different languages and even belonged to different ethnic groups.

For reference:

  • The Hapsburg Empire that ruled over Austria and Hungary had people from different regions speaking different languages and existed as a patchwork.

  • The aristocrats from alpine regions of Tyrol, Austria, Sudetenland and Bohemia spoke German

  • The empire also consisted of Italian speaking regions of Lombardy and Venetia - The Hungarian region had people speaking Magyar and various other dialects - In Galicia, the aristocracy spoke Polish

The only tie binding these diverse groups together was a common allegiance to the emperor.

The Socio-Economic Structure in Europe

Central and Eastern Europe

  • In Eastern and Central Europe the pattern of landholding was characterized by vast estates which were cultivated by serfs.

  • The members of the landed aristocracy were united by a common way of life that cut across regional differences.

  • They owned estates in the countryside and also town-houses. They spoke French for purposes of diplomacy and in high society.

  • Their families were often connected by ties of marriage. This powerful aristocracy was, however, numerically a small group.

Western Europe

  • In Western Europe, the bulk of the land was farmed by tenants and small owners.

  • The growth of industrial production and trade led to emergence of new commercial classes and middle classes whose existence was based on production for the market.

  • It was among this class that the ideas of national unity and abolition of aristocratic privileges.

Was there political equality in Napoleon's Europe?

Even with this equality and freedom brought by the Napoleonic code, the suffrage rights were not given to all and they organized themselves in opposition for equal political rights.

The right to vote and to get elected was granted exclusively to property-owning men. Men without property and all women were excluded from political rights.

Only for a brief time during the Jacobin Rule all the adult males got voting rights. But the Napoleonic Code went back to limited suffrage and reduced women to the status of a minor, subject to the authority of fathers and husbands

Events After the Death of Napoleon

Rise of Conservatism

After the death of Napoleon in 1815 , the conservatives gained influence and the European governments were run by them.

They believed that the traditional institutions of state and society like the Church, Monarchy and Social hierarchy should be preserved. They wanted to modernize the traditional institutions but did not want to return back to pre-revolution days.

They also understood that the changes bought by napoleon could make the state strong and could strengthen the autocratic monarchies.

After defeating Napoleon in battle of Waterloo the European powers met at Vienna to draw upon the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 to undo the changes brought by Napoleon in Europe.

Main Features of Treaty of Vienna

Congress/Conference was hosted by Austrian Chancellor Duke Metternich. Main features of Treaty of Vienna includes:

  • The bourbon dynasty was restored to power

  • The land annexed by Napoleon was returned or redistributed in the following manner:

- The Kingdom of Netherlands, including Belgium, was set up in the north.

- Genoa was added to Piedmont in the South.

- Saxony was given to Prussia

- Austria gained control over northern Italy

- Poland was given to Russia

  • Re-established single person rule and the Napoleon group of 39 states was not changed.

  • Boundaries were made to prevent French expansion with the intention to restore the monarchies that had been overthrown by Napoleon, and create a new conservative order in Europe.

  • Imposed censorship laws and tried to limit the ideas of liberty and freedom associated with the French Revolution. They did not want to be questioned and had low tolerance for criticism and dissent.

The Revolutionaries

What was the political philosophy of revolutionaries? How did they spread their ideas?

The fear of repression drove many liberal-nationalists underground and many secret societies sprang up in many European states to train revolutionaries and spread their ideas.

Most of these revolutionaries also saw the creation of nation-states as a necessary part of this struggle for freedom.

Who was Giuseppe Mazzini?

He was a young 24 year old Italian revolutionary born in Genoa, Italy. He became a part of one Carbonari secret society.

He believed that God had intended nations to be the natural units of mankind. So Italy could not continue to be a patchwork of small states and kingdoms. It had to be forged into a single unified republic within a wider alliance of nations. He was sent into exile in 1831 for attempting a revolution in Liguria.

He was also described as ‘the most dangerous enemy of our social order’. by Duke Metternich because of his relentless opposition to monarchy and his vision of democratic republics frightened the conservatives.

He also founded two underground societies:

  1. Young Italy in Marseilles

  2. Young Europe in Berne

The Age of Revolutions during the Rise of Nationalism in Europe

These revolutions were led by the liberal-nationalists belonging to the educated middle-class elite, among whom were professors, school- teachers, clerks and members of the commercial middle classes.

Culture as a Binding Force of Nationalism - Romanticism

Culture played an important role in creating the idea of the nation: art and poetry, stories and music helped express and shape nationalist feelings. They focused on emotions, intuition and mystical feelings.

The emphasis on vernacular language and the collection of local folklore was not just to recover an ancient national spirit, but also to carry the modern nationalist message to large audiences who were mostly illiterate.

Their effort was to create a sense of a shared collective heritage, a common cultural past, as the basis of a nation.

Romanticism - a cultural movement which sought to develop a particular form of nationalist sentiment

Romanticism in Germany

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) claimed that true German culture was to be discovered among the common people – das volk. It was through folk songs, folk poetry and folk dances that the true spirit of the nation (volksgeist) was popularized.

Romanticism in Poland

Poland had been partitioned at the end of the eighteenth century by the Great Powers – Russia, Prussia and Austria. Even though Poland no longer existed as an independent territory, national feelings were kept alive through music and language.

Karol Kurpinski - celebrated the national struggle through his operas and music, turning folk dances like the polonaise and mazurka into nationalist symbols.

To counter the Russian rule in Poland, Many members of the clergy in Poland began to use language as a weapon of national resistance. Polish was used for Church gatherings and all religious instruction.

Spread of Revolutions

’When France sneezes,’ Metternich once remarked, ‘the rest of Europe catches cold.’ - Duke Metternich

July Revolution - France

The July revolution took place in France in (1830). Here, Bourbon Kings whose power was restored by conservatives were overthrown again by revolutionaries. After revolution, Louis Philippe was appointed as a constitutional monarchy in 1848

The July Revolution sparked an uprising in Brussels which led to Belgium breaking away from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Greek war of Independence

Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire since the 15th century. It got support for its independence from other Greeks living in exile and Western Europes. They respected and had sympathies for the ancient Greek Culture.

Poets and artists thought Greece as base for European civilisation in their creation and regarded it as a cradle of European culture and supported the independence from a muslim ruler under Ottoman Empire.

Finally Treaty of Constantinople in (1832) declared Greece as an independent nation

Hunger Hardship and Popular Revolt

Europe experienced economic pains around the 1830s. Rise of the population was more than the employment generation. Rural populations start migrating to cities to live in overcrowded slums.

Small producers (example textile production,) in towns faced tough competitions from import of machine goods from England. Peasants suffered feudal dues and duties in aristocratic regions of Europe.

Rise in food prices or a year of bad harvest led to poverty in town and country where the poor people had to be supported by the government. (Pauperism)

Peasants’ uprising - Silesia in 1845 (Southern Poland)

Journalist Wilhelm Wolff was of the view that contractors took advantage of miserable conditions of workers by reducing goods price in the Silesian village having 18000 inhabitants majority of whom were engaged in cotton weaving.

Upon realizing the unfair treatment, the weavers revolted against contractors for their reduced payments. The crowd of weavers marched to the contractor's mansion demanding higher wages.

The group of weavers destroyed many precious things. They broke into a storehouse and stole the cloth. The contractor ran away to another village but every village denied shelter to the contractor.

Since he had support from nobles, he returned to the village after 24 hours with an army. The exchange of army with the peasants led to the death of eleven weavers.

Revolution of the Liberals

This revolution was led by educated middle classes. Liberal middle classes demanded justice with a nation state, a constitution and freedom of the press and association.

After France became a republic in 1848 and granted suffrage rights, many people of Europe started demanding constitutionalism and national unification.

They started demanding creation of a nation-state on parliamentary principles – a constitution, freedom of the press and freedom of association.

The Frankfurt Parliament Germany in 1848

Political associations of middle-class professionals, businessmen and prosperous artisans came together in Frankfurt and decided to vote for an all German National Assembly.

On 18th May 1848, 831 elected representatives marched from their places to Frankfurt Parliament and assembled in St. Paul church. They drafted a constitution for Germany headed by the monarch.

Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia rejected the crown offer and joined neighboring monarchs to oppose the elected assembly. In the end troops were called in and the assembly was forced to disband.

Limited Participation in Frankfurt Parliament

The parliament was dominated by the middle classes who resisted the demands of workers and artisans and consequently lost their support.

Women too were denied the right to vote; they were only allowed to observe happenings in Frankfurt Parliament by standing in the visitor's gallery.

Women’s political rights were controversial in liberal movement. Women formed their political associations, founded newspapers and participated in political meetings and demonstrations.

Why did Monarchs start adopting Nationalist and Liberal Measures after 1848?

Monarchs were beginning to realize that the cycles of revolution and repression could only be ended by granting concessions to the liberal-nationalist revolutionaries.

Hence, in the years after 1848, the autocratic monarchies of Central and Eastern Europe began to introduce the changes that had already taken place in Western Europe before 1815.

Serfdom and bonded labor were abolished both in the Habsburg dominions and in Russia. The Habsburg rulers granted more autonomy to the Hungarians in 1867.

The Making of Germany and Italy

Unification of Germany

Unification of Germany from 1866 to 1871

In Germany nationalist feelings were widespread among middle-class Germans. Nationalist sentiments were often mobilized by conservatives for promoting state power and achieving political domination over Europe.

Disbanding of Frankfurt Parliament

In 1848 middle-class Germans tried to unite Germans into nation-state heads by elected parliament. This initiative of nation-building was crushed by both monarchy and military, and supported by Junkers (large landowners of Prussia).

Realizing the rise and popularity of nationalism, Prussia took on leadership of the movement for national unification.

National Unification of Germany

Otto von Bismarck, Prussian Chief Minister designed the unification process with the help of the Prussian army and government. He achieved unification in over seven years after 3 wars with Austria,Denmark and France.

Prussian ministers including the chief minister Otto von Bismarck gathered in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles to proclaim the new German Empire headed by Kaiser William I of Prussia.

The nation-building process in Germany had demonstrated the dominance of Prussian state power. New Germany strongly focused on modernisation of currency, banking, legal and jurisdictional system in Germany

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is also called the Bismarck of India

Unification of Italy from 1815 to 1871.

Italy unification dates back to a long history of political fragments. Italians were scattered over several dynastic states and the multinational Habsburg Empire.

Italy Was divided into 7 states during the middle of the 19th century. Only the kingdom of Sardinia Piedmont was ruled by an Italian princely house. The Italian language was not common and had variations.

  • North was under Austrian Habsburgs

  • Center was ruled by Pope

  • The South were under Bourbon Kings of Spain.

Italy in 1830s

Giuseppe Mazzini organized a programme for uniting the Italian republic. He was the founder of secret society “Young Italy” for distribution of his goals.

After the failure of the revolutionary movements, the responsibility to unify Italy fell on Sardinia-Piedmont under its ruler King Victor Emmanuel II.

In the eyes of the ruling elites of this region, a unified Italy offered them the possibility of economic development and political dominance as portrayed by Napoleon.

The Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont made a tactful diplomatic alliance with France. This alliance was engineered by Count Camillo Cavour (Chief Minister of Sardinia-Piedmont) and he succeeded in defeating the Austrian forces in 1859.

Apart from regular troops, a large number of armed volunteers under the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi also joined the war.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian nationalist and participated in revolutionary movements alongside Mazzini. He later supported Victor Emmanuel in his efforts to unify Italy and led the Expedition to South Italy.Garibaldi and his troops were popularly known as Red Shirts.

They marched into South Italy and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and succeeded in winning the support of the local peasants in order to drive out the Spanish rulers.

The peasant masses who had supported Garibaldi in southern Italy had never heard of Italia, and believed that ‘La Talia’ was Victor Emmanuel’s wife!

Formation of Britain

The formation of Britain was not a result of a sudden upheaval or revolution. The English parliament had seized power from the monarchy in 1688 at the end of a conflict and became a nation state with England at its center.

There was no British nation before the 18th century. British peoples were identified by ethnicity that is common origin or race such as English,Welsh, Scottish or Irish with their own cultural and political traditions.

But as the English nation steadily grew in wealth, importance and power, it was able to extend its influence over the other nations of the islands.

The Union of Scotland with England

The Act of Union in 1707 between England and Scotland formed the United Kingdom. England dominated Scotland and its culture. Even they were denied to use their national identities.

The Catholic clans that inhabited the Scottish Highlands suffered terrible repression whenever they attempted to assert their independence.

The Scottish Highlanders were forbidden to speak their Gaelic language or wear their national dress, and large numbers were forcibly driven out of their homeland.

The Integration of Ireland with the United Kingdom

Ireland suffered a similar fate. It was a country deeply divided between Catholics and Protestants. The English helped the Protestants of Ireland to establish their dominance over a largely Catholic country. Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801.

A new British nation BRITAIN was formed with symbols such as the British Flag by Union Jack, National anthem that is God Save Our Noble King and English language.

Visualizing the Nation

Artists in the 18th and 19th centuries personified a nation. Nations were portrayed as female figures which became allegory (symbolic and literal) of the nation.

The French revolution showed Liberty by broken chain or red cap, Justice by a blindfolded woman carrying a pair of weighing scales.

The French symbol was the christened Marianne - a popular Christian name. She was characterized by ideas of Liberty and Republic. Marianne statues in public squares symbolize national unity, Marianne's images on coins and stamps marked national identity.

In Germany, Germania became the allegory that is the symbol of the German nation. Germania was painted by Philipp Veit in 1848. It was painted on a cotton banner.

Visually Germania wears a crown of oak leaves that are symbols of German strength. It is represented with an imperial eagle, a hemp branch that is a sign of peace and a banner.

  • Sword expresses an idea of defense and leadership.

  • The black red and gold flag represents the flag of Germany.

  • Loose shackle is a metal link representing freedom and independence.


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