Nationalism and War
Does nationalism have a relationship with the causes of the wars between 1792 and 1914? This can be disputed through the events of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the unification struggles of Germany and Italy in the late 1800’s, the Alliance systems of the late 1800’s and the assassination of the Austrian archduke before the outbreak of World War 1.
During the French Revolution in 1792, an effort was made to remove Austrian presence from French lands. This came about in part because King Louis XVI wanted to seek help from the Austrians to remove the reformers, persuading France to declare war on Austria. The Jacobins were afraid that this war would have an irreversible effect on the Revolution. Therefore the Jacobins, believing in having a duty to the nation, preached nationalistic and liberal ideals to the entire nation, using every kind of communication available to them at the time. Jacobins inspired patriotism in the young men drafted into the war to draw upon their own nationalism-to fight for France. This led to victory over Austria and in the process, France acquired Belgium. Although nationalism was used to raise the hopes of the French people to victory, it was not the cause of the war. “The American and French revolutions were crucial phases in the history of liberalism.” (Perry, 377). During these revolutions, signs of nationalistic ideas became apparent that were associated with later wars in Europe.
The Napoleonic wars were a continuation of the revolution, which were no more based on nationalistic ideas than the revolution itself. Napoleon set out in 1799 to conquer Europe in hopes to rule an Empire just as Charlemagne and Alexander the Great did. He set out to accomplish this by over-throwing the Directory and installing a government called the Consulate. In time, he increased his power to a point where he was in total control and appointing himself the Emperor of France. Many of the wars during this time led to nationalistic feelings in the countries that Napoleon had conquered. This became visible in the resistance of the Spanish and Prussians after Napoleon conquered them. Spain revolted because Napoleon took away the privileges of the nobles and made his brother, who the Spanish considered a foreigner, king. Similarly, during the War of Liberation, patriotic and nationalistic principles led Prussia to revolt against the French invasion. With great patriotism and nationalism, Prussia defeated France in1813. The Napoleonic Wars were not wars of nationalism, but were of one man's dream of being a conqueror.
At another time in history, Bismarck was instrumental in the unification of Germany. It was his thirst for expansion and Prussian rule throughout Germany that drove him. It was during the unification of the southern states that nationalism played an essential role. With the help of Austria, Bismarck’s first strike was at Denmark in 1864. Austria only joined in the hope that...