Nationalism in History

Nationalism, despite presenting itself as ancient and inevitable, only gained political usage in the late 18th century during the Enlightenment period. The term 'nationalism' was first printed in 1789 by Augustin Barruel. By the 19th century, nationalism became a significant force in shaping international relations and European politics, eventually becoming dominant in global politics by the 20th century. It played a major role in the 1848 European revolutions, anti-colonial movements, and later, as a component of fascism and world wars. Nationalism is often defined as the belief that the nation is the central principle of political organization, based on the assumptions that humankind is naturally divided into nations and that the nation is the most suitable unit of political rule. The origins of nationalism can be traced back to the French Revolution, which marked a shift from allegiance to rulers towards a sense of shared national identity. It appealed to various groups, from revolutionaries seeking popular government to liberal reformers advocating for political progress. The 19th century saw the reconfiguration of Europe as autocratic empires crumbled under nationalist and liberal pressures. Nationalist uprisings in 1848 led to the unification of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871. However, enthusiasm for nationalism was mainly confined to the middle classes seeking national unity and constitutional government.

Jingoism and populist nationalism-each nation for itself-

By the end of the 19th century, nationalism had evolved into a widely embraced movement. This was evident in the proliferation of flags, national anthems, patriotic literary works, public events, and national holidays. Nationalism had transitioned into the primary language of mass politics, facilitated by the expansion of basic education, widespread literacy, and the circulation of popular newspapers. The nature of nationalism had also shifted; once aligned with liberal and progressive causes, it was increasingly adopted by conservative and reactionary figures. Nationalism now symbolized social unity, order, and stability, especially in response to the rising threat of socialism, which championed social upheaval and global working-class solidarity. Nationalism aimed to assimilate the burgeoning working class into the nation, thereby upholding the existing social hierarchy. Rather than promoting political freedom or democracy, patriotic sentiment was now stirred by the remembrance of historical national triumphs and military conquests. This form of nationalism grew progressively more jingoistic and xenophobic. Each nation asserted its unique or superior attributes, while viewing other nations as foreign, untrustworthy, or even hostile. This surge in popular nationalism fueled imperialistic agendas that surged in the 1870s and 1880s, eventually leading to European dominance over much of the world's population by the century's end. It also cultivated an atmosphere of global competition and distrust, ultimately culminating in the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

The liberal doctrine of self determination and the rise of hyper nationalism- fascism

After World War I concluded, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States promoted the idea of national self-determination during the Paris Peace Conference. As a result, the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires were dismantled, leading to the establishment of eight new nations such as Finland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia. These newly formed countries aimed to align with the geographical and ethnic compositions of their respective populations. Nevertheless, this principle did not extend to the colonies of countries like the United Kingdom and France. The aftermath of the war, coupled with the disillusionment over the peace treaties, left behind a legacy of unfulfilled aspirations and resentment. This sentiment was particularly strong in Germany, Italy, and Japan, where fascist or authoritarian governments rose to power between the two world wars, promising to rejuvenate national pride through expansionist policies. Nationalism played a significant role in triggering both the conflicts of 1914 and 1939.

Anticolonial nationalism

Throughout the twentieth century, the concept of nationalism, originating in Europe, expanded globally as Asian and African populations rose against colonial dominance. Colonialism not only involved asserting political and economic control but also introduced Western ideologies like nationalism, which later fueled resistance against colonial powers. Nationalist movements erupted in Egypt in 1919 and quickly spread across the Middle East. The Anglo-Afghan war and uprisings in India, the Dutch East Indies, and Indochina also occurred in 1919. Post-1945, Africa and Asia underwent significant territorial changes as British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese empires crumbled in the face of successful nationalist movements. Anti-colonialism not only saw the dissemination of Western-style nationalism to the developing world but also gave rise to new variations of nationalism. Nationalist movements in China, Vietnam, and parts of Africa intertwined nationalism with Marxism, viewing national liberation as not just a political objective but also a societal revolution. In other regions, developing-world nationalism opposed the Western ideologies of liberal democracy and revolutionary socialism. This opposition is especially evident in the emergence of religious nationalism and fundamentalism. The connection between nationalism and religious fundamentalism is explored later in the chapter, alongside postcolonial nationalism.