During the Napoleonic wars, States had fiercely defended their people, their frontiers, their identity and so national heroes and national symbols became an important part of the common man’s existence.
The 19lh century citizen with important constitutional rights also developed strong nationalistic loyalties and the concept of the nation state thus struck deep roots in the body politic of nations.
The French Declaration of Rights 1789 said “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation.” Nation state loyalties were bound to the political rights of the people.
Universal suffrage did not come to West Europe till 1870 and in East Europe till 1919. Thus, it was mainly the educated, urbane middle class who pursued the ideologies of nationalism and liberalism and built movements around them.
In Europe, after the Congress of Vienna, such conflicts would take on alarming proportions in the Habsburg, Russian and Turkish empires. Many empires would thus have to have their boundaries reworked.
Nationalism could thus act as a means of breaking up empires or of bringing together people who were increasingly identifying themselves by a common language, culture or religion.
Italy and Germany are two important examples of how language, folk culture and common historical memories lead to very strong nationalistic feelings helping to build the two people into sovereign, united and independent nation states by 1870.
The Sultan of Turkey was the nominal head of the Balkan Peninsula which was inhabited by different ethnic groups like Bulgarians, Croats, Serbians, Montenegrins, Romanians and Greeks.
All these groups would soon be clamoring for independence. Similarly, the Poles, Ukrainians and Finns would be demanding independence from the Russian empire. Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks would also gradually start demanding certain political rights. Thus, ethnic nationalism would become an extremely significant political issue leading to many new movements in the future.
Beginnings of nationalistic sentiments in universities and student circles in the urban areas, supported often by gentry groups were however confined to small numbers. A number of revolts took place in Italy, Spain, Greece and Belgium at this time. The agenda was mostly some sort of democratic rights or nationalistic independence.
Economic development: The world economy of capitalism from mid 19th century onwards was a conglomeration of national blocs or national economies which had emerged with the growing number of nation states.
These states protected their industrializing economies against competition from other nations. Thus, these nations also became rival economies. Domestic markets became the chief concern of national industries. Broadening profit margins was not easy.
The world economy was becoming increasingly global because on one hand developed nation states were growing fast and on the other hand, the developed countries supplied goods to the capitalist nations depending on what they produced most, like coffee, bananas or beef.
Britain continued to dominate the international capital market till the First World War. In 1914, France, Germany, U.S.A., Belgium and Netherlands, Switzerland and others had 56% of the world’s overseas investments and Britain alone had 44%. Yet pluralism was a fast growing characteristic of the world economy.
At the same time, economic competition and economic rivalry between nation states led to imperialism of the 20th century and to the genesis of the First World War. The world had come closer together than ever before through more complex economic transactions, a growing network of transportation and with technological advancement came the growing need for raw materials like oil, rubber, copper and precious metals.
All this meant that imperialism would grow in directions it had never gone before. Remote undeveloped countries in Africa or Asia supplied a lot of the raw material.
Sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa and tropical fruits were also in great demand now and big business grew around these products leading to the growth of gigantic companies in the west that had vital business interests in the undeveloped world. Markets in these areas were another motive which drove the western nations to look for colonies.
Political prestige was not far behind as an important motive especially for countries like Germany and Italy. Britain and France had already established themselves as old colonial powers.
The ideological and political content of nationalism from the 1880s till the First World War acquired new, culturally aggressive dimensions. A larger number of entities would now start staking their claims as ‘national’.
Thus, nationalism along with other ideologies like Marxism and socialism gave Europe new language of political articulation and brought up concerns which had never disturbed the men and women of the 19lh century.