Throughout the 19th century, the rise of nationalism allowed for the progressive development of the nation-state in many parts of the world. This ideology is characterized by “calls on people to identify with the interests of their national group and to support the creation of a state – a nation-state – to support those interests.” For many countries in Europe in particular Italy and Germany, this concept acted as a unifying force that allowed the regional states that shared a common national identity to come together as one nation. In this paper, the extent to which nationalism can be considered a threat or reinforcement to international order in the 19th century will be discussed.
The unification of Italy is an important historical event that highlights how the rise of nationalism was considered a threat to international order in the 19th century. As more individuals began to identify with the idea of their own nation, tensions grew between the boundaries of states throughout Europe, especially by monarchs who held various fragmented regions of Italy under their control. This upcoming Italian nationalist movement sought after a republican government, which as a result further distanced itself from the European practice of absolutism where nationality existed only as absolute kings conceived of it and as it was systematized by treaties among governments . Moreover, there was a growing sentiment between the peoples of the various Italian regions where those who wished for the peace and unification of Italy should not be looking for liberty at the hands of the foreigner . Instead, it was proposed by Giuseppe Mazzini that the reformation of a people rests on no certain foundation, unless it based on agreement in religious belief and on the harmonious union of the entire sum of human faculties . Despite the various revolutions occurring across Europe during the year of 1848, with them including the one Giuseppe Mazzini began, these were soon quashed by foreign powers. This example highlights the strong threat nationalism posed to international order, an order that was fairly static throughout history as a result of the hold the great powers had against their colonized regions, up until the spread of nationalism.
Great Britain was one of these great European powers that felt threatened by the national uprising occurring in their own colonies. More and more nationalists began to spread and encourage the idea of being nationally independent from Great Britain. Taking the rise of nationalism in Ireland as an example, allowed British parliament to question the possible implications of granting independence to one of their oldest colonies. This matter was rejected as it would allow other important colonies like India to leave the British Empire. However, the nationalist movement in India had already begun as more and more people felt that the government behaved insolently towards them, and disregarded their feelings . Under British rule, Industrialization and technological transformations such as the improvement of infrastructural facilities in India allowed for the people to come together to fight the colonists, regardless of the differences in their caste, religion and gender. This example provides further support to the idea of nationalism being a threat of international order in the 19th century.
However, it can also be argued that nationalism reinforced international order in the 19th century. This can be illustrated by the amount of states that formed allegiances after their acquisition of national independence, which played a big part in the upcoming wars.
In conclusion nationalism is to be considered predominantly a threat of international order in the 19th century.
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