Nationalism began appearing in strength around 1800, coinciding with the rise of democracy. In fact, the two are distinctly bound together. Nationalism is one's pride in their own country. More than that it is one's belief in identifying with a political entity bigger than any one individual. This seems entirely alien to us today, but the fact is that many people didn't identify with where they lived as a country; indeed many of today's countries didn't exist until about this time period. For example, Germans went from defining themselves by region (i.e. Bavarian, Rhineland, etc) to calling themselves "German". As one can imagine, as pride swelled, so did competition and rivalry. "The Invisible Hand" pushing nations onward into industrialization and also happening to be a main factor of capitalism, a cornerstone of democracy. Clearly no coincidence.
Pride and Motivation
Posters like this represent nationalism brilliantly. The use of 'we' brings the individual reader to feel apart of something bigger than themselves. Furthermore, the poster motivates the reader to want to do their part to help their country.
At first glance, nationalism and democracy don't seem to compare very much. One is a system of government while the other is more of a philosophy or mental state of being. However, one can not exist favorably without the other. Democracy is considered by most to be the purest form of free sustainable government imaginable. It is based on a system of voting to ensure political representation and a free-trade economy to ensure that the nation will continue to sustain its self through innovation and competition. Also, as in the case of the U.S. and to a lesser extent many countries in the U.N., democratic societies feel the urge to spread democracy as a means of "saving" and benefiting other nations in the world, along with the liberator. Nationalism on the other hand, is as previously stated, one's personal affiliation and pride in their country. No major correlations, right? But when we dig deeper, we find this to be wholly false.
One of the most famous cases of nationalism in the world's history was undoubtedly Hitler's use of it to motivate the German people following the country's collapse after World War I. This happened after the period of study (1800-1900) but tends to come to mind notably to the average student of history. Don't be disillusioned by this case. As clarified in the following section, nationalism is not directly tied with socialism or communism. In fact, it lends its self much better to the concept of democracy.
Democracy and nationalism rose to prominence in the world at the same time because they simply go together. As a people gain freedom from monarchy, they tended to turn towards a representative democracy. The once impoverished and downtrodden were given the capability to rise and gain prominence. For once in their lives, they had something to be proud of. This pride in themselves came to reflect on their country as well. Nationalism was something neighbors, men, women, children, rich, and poor could all connect with and thus unite together. Which then turned back to democracy because as we are often reminded throughout history, one fist is stronger than five fingers. As countries of the time period, such as the U.S. united, they gained stature in the world. Democracy spread because other people saw what Americans had and wanted in on it. Revolutions (on the other tab) occured when the average person saw a better life. Revolutions led to new countries being formed from colonies and empires. These new nations typically chose democracy as a way of self governing because they despised the injustice of absolute power. Then the process would cycle through again as this new nations citizens gained pride in their country as conditions improved.
Nationalism and democracy rose at the same time because they feed off of each other. Democracy starts a cycle that is fed by a nation's growing nationalism. Granted the cycle is not perfect and has collapsed, but generally has succeeded, particularly in the period of study. The results of the partnership of democracy and nationalism in 1800-1900 reshaped the world and how we define ourselves as citizens.
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- Wolfgang Sauer "National Socialism:
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American Historical Review, Volume 73, Issue #2, December