Nationalism- Rise and Impact

Mains Marks Booster     4th August 2023        
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Current Context

The rise of nationalism is a significant global trend in contemporary times, with nations and communities asserting their identity, culture, and aspirations. It has implications for politics, international relations, and social cohesion. 

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment

  • Patriotism, Self-determination, Nation-state, Cultural heritage, Sovereignty and Independence


Interesting Fact: The late 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the growth of nationalist movements in Europe, leading to the unification of Italy and Germany and the struggle for independence in various colonies



  • Nationalism & concept of a Nation, representing the people and their sovereignty, emerged during the French Revolution. Prior to the French Revolution, Europe was dominated by feudal systems, empires, and scattered territories.
  • Nationalism became associated with the ideas of self-rule and was influenced by the French and American revolutions.

 Misuse by Absolute Monarchs:

  • During Napoleon's invasion of Europe, monarchs used nationalism to consolidate their power and protect their territories against foreign invasion.
  • Absolute monarchies in the 19th century used nationalism as a shield to defend and extend their empires.
  • Aggressive expansionism and colonial pursuits were justified in the name of nationalism.


  • Modern thinkers contributed to the concept of nationalism and influenced national boundaries.
  • Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, and Belgium achieved independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1839 through pro-democracy revolutions.
  • Thinkers like Garibaldi, Mazzini, and Byron played important roles in the unification of Germany, Italy, and Greek independence, respectively.
  • These thinkers brought Romanticism to the literary content, inspiring people to support armies, freedom fighters, and monarchies for the glory of the nation.


  • Industrial Revolution fueled Economic Nationalism. National competition in economic sphere brought the nation-states in conflict with each other for acquisition of colonies.


  • Nationalism has been a powerful force in shaping the modern world, driving movements for self-determination, fostering a sense of identity & belonging, and influencing political and cultural landscapes.
  • While it has contributed to the formation of nation-states and the pursuit of collective goals, it also carries the potential for exclusion, conflict, and ethnocentrism.
  • Balancing the positive aspects of nationalism, such as cultural preservation and solidarity, with the need for inclusivity, diversity, and cooperation remains a challenge for societies striving for peaceful coexistence in a globalized world.


"The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been." - Otto von Bismarck

Current Context:

The unification of Germany refers to the historical process by which the various German speaking states were unified into a single nation-state. It is a significant event that shaped the political landscape of Europe and had long-lasting implications. 

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment

  • Bismarck policy of Blood & Iron, Diplomacy and Wars of unification


Interesting Fact:

The unification of Germany was primarily led by Otto von Bismarck, who employed a combination of diplomacy and military strategies to achieve his goal. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 played a crucial role in the final stages of unification.


Conditions Prevailing Prior to Unification of Germany

  • Political conditions: Till about the 1800s, there was no emotion of German nationalism among the people. The princely states were autonomous, and others were directly ruled by the Holy Roman emperor.
  • Social conditions: Resembled those of feudal society with dominance of Junkers (landlords) in state affairs.
  • Economic conditions: Division of Germany into multiple states resulted in poor economic development due to restrictions on the movement of goods.

Role of Napoleonic Wars & French Revolution: Sequence of Events

  • End of artificial boundaries: Napoleonic wars ended the artificial boundaries in many German states, leaving 38 states remaining (Prussia was the largest and most powerful state).
  • Wave of nationalism enthused the Germans for unification of the German states. They started demanding a democratic form of government and economic reforms, influenced by French Revolution.
  • Formation of German Confederation (1815): including parts of Austrian and Prussian Empires and some German states.
  • Failure of the Confederation: Constituent states asserted their independence and did little to meet anti-feudal aspirations and rivalry between Austria and Prussia for dominance.
  • Revolts of 1848: Revolts erupted across German states, aiming to overthrow monarchies and establish democratic systems. Constituent Assembly formed in Frankfurt with goals of uniting German states and drafting a new constitution.
  • Rejection by Prussian King: Proposal for a constitutional monarchy for a united Germany was rejected.
  • Suppression and emergence of Prussian monarchy: Rulers repressed nationalists, withdrew rights granted, and the monarchy of Prussia became the strongest.

Unification under Bismarck: Policy of Blood & Iron: Sequence of Events

  • Bismarck's policy: Aimed to preserve the interests of the landed aristocracy and the dominance of the army in state affairs.
  • War against Denmark: Bismarck's Prussia fought a war in 1864, in alliance with Austria, against Denmark to annex most of the territory of the German Confederation.
  • Alliance with Italy: Bismarck allied with Italy in 1866 to defeat Austria and remove it from the German Confederation, leading to its dissolution.
  • Formation of North German Confederation: In 1867, Bismarck formed the North German Confederation, uniting 22 German states, but excluding Southern German states like Bavaria.
  • Prussian King as head: The Prussian King became the hereditary head of the state through the constitution of the North German Confederation.
  • Southern states' unification: Southern German states, initially pro-Austria, were forced to unite after the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
  • Franco-Prussian War: The war in 1870 led to the final unification of Germany, with France's defeat and the declaration of a republic in France in 1871.
  • Absorption of German states: The war allowed Bismarck to absorb the remaining German states into a united Germany.
Unification under Bismarck: Policy of Blood & Iron: Sequence of Events


  • The unification of Germany in the 19th century was shaped by social, economic, and political factors, including division, wars, failed democracy, and Bismarck's policy.
  • The Franco-Prussian War solidified Germany's unification under the Prussian monarchy, leaving a lasting impact on Europe and beyond.
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