Textbook Reading

Liberalism, Socialism, & Marxism Explained

Unit 6: Nationalism, Imperialism, & Militarism

Nationalism Explained:
Nationalism is a deep devotion to one’s country. An early stage of nationalism is the desire to form a country free from foreign control. The first modern nations of England and France were formed during the Hundred Years’ War in the late Middle Ages when people developed loyalties to their countries, rather than to local feudal lords. Nationalism came to the Americas in the late 1700s and early 1800s when European colonies threw off foreign control. In 1830, Greece gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire of Turkey. But, in the early 1800s, much of Europe was still divided into an assortment of small kingdoms, baronies, and dukedoms. Italy and Germany, for example, did not yet exist as nations.

Due to marriages between the royal families of Europe, people often found themselves ruled by foreigners who didn’t even speak the same language as the people they governed. Inspired by Enlightenment ideas and hopes for democracy, people hungered for change. People wanted to belong to nations that reflected their own culture, history, language, religion, and traditions. Nationalism became the strongest political force of the 1800s. Much of the century’s history is a story of people struggling to be free of foreign control.

Imperialism Expained:
After the Industrial Revolution gave Western nations wealth and technology that could be used to overpower less advanced societies, the Great Powers went on a binge of empire-building in Asia and Africa. When one country sets out to dominate and control another land, it is called imperialism. In 1800, Western industrialized powers controlled 35 percent of the world’s land surface; by 1914 they controlled 84 percent! There were several factors that encouraged imperialism, but probably the most important was greed. The Industrial nations wanted overseas colonies to supply cheap raw materials for European factories, and they wanted new markets where they could sell finished goods produced by those factories.

Nationalism was another factor. Spurred on by intense feelings of patriotism, the countries of Europe tried to increase their power and prestige by adding new territories. To be a Great Power required overseas possessions. Nations competed with one another to grab territories before other powers could get them, provoking a series of international conflicts. Even the United States, which had fought for its own independence from colonial rule, joined the imperialist feeding frenzy.

Racism was another factor that promoted imperialism. With their advanced technology, and a belief in the theory of Social Darwinism, many people in the Western world felt they were superior to all others. They believed the white man had a natural right to dominate “backward” people and was actually doing them a favor by bringing them Western technology, religion and education. This attitude was expressed in a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling which encouraged Western man to “Take up the White Man’s Burden.” Imperialism served to place millions of black and brown people under the control of white people.

Militarism Expained:
Militarism is defined as a glorification of the ideals of a professional military class. It's a policy in which military preparedness and agressiveness is a of huge importance to the country. This idealogy ended up being of great importance in the mid to late 1800's because of countries competing for oversea territories in the pursuit of power. Militarism creates the weapons used to conquer new land and peoples. Imperialist regimes set out to be unchallenged and militarism allows this to happen. The bigger and stronger their military is the easier it would be to conquer. As you can assume this build up of the military can lead to confrontation among other nations who are attempting to do the same thing. Militarism is one of the causes of World War I.

Social Darwinsim Expained:
In the early part of the 1800s, nationalism was associated with positive ideas such as freedom and independence from foreign control. The last half of the century, however, saw the emergence of a darker side of nationalism, which glorified war and military conquest. This extreme form of nationalism often encouraged racism, which is a belief that one’s own country or race is superior to all others. Racism was supported by the philosophy of Social Darwinism. Charles Darwin was an English scientist who developed the Theory of Natural Selection, which proposes that an animal species may change over time as the fittest members survive and the less successful members die out. Social Darwinists attempted to apply Darwin’s theory to human societies claiming that the world’s more technologically advanced races were intended by nature to dominate “lesser” races. Governments began to take a new interest in the health of their citizens, encouraging workers to get outside and play games to improve the nation’s “fitness.” Organized sports began to play a big role in Western culture; the Olympic Games were revived in 1896. The philosophy of Social Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” was also adopted by rich industrialists who believed their wealth proved they were superior examples of the human species which meant it was perfectly acceptable for them to enjoy their vast riches while keeping their inferior workers living in poverty. The leaders of industry and banking by now had formed a new aristocracy of wealth and power to replace the nobility of earlier ages.


Unifying Italy
When the Roman Empire fell in the 400’s, Italy split into many kingdoms. In the 1800’s, Napoleon of France combined some of the kingdoms. Italians began to dream of one free land.

After the reign of Napoleon, Italy was still divided. Nationalists wanted unity, but regional differences worked against them. Mighty Austria ruled in Northern Italy. The Roman Catholic Church controlled central Italy.

Skilled leaders fought for unification. In the 1830’s, Giuseppe Mazzini founded a rebel group called young Italy. In the kingdom of Sardinia, King Victor Emmanuel II made plans to rule all of Italy. In 1852, he named Camillo Cavour as prime minister. Sardinia became the center of the fight for unity. Cavour joined with France in the war against Austria. As he gained lands and respect, more northern states united with Sardinia.

Giuseppe Garibaldi led a force that won Sicily and then moved north. Meanwhile, Cavour sent troops south. The two armies overran all Italian states but Venetia and Rome. As of 1861, Victor Emmanuel ruled united lands. By 1871, all foreign control had ended. The Pope could not fight off Italian troops. Rome became the capitol of the unified nation.

The new Italy faced conflicts. The urban north quarreled with the rural south. The Catholic Church resisted new leaders. Unrest grew as groups called for social change and the right to vote for all men.

Nationalism Threatens Old Empires
The spirit nationalism helped Germany and Italy. It also helped break up two empires. In 1800, the Hapsburgs of Austria were the oldest ruling family in Europe. They controlled Bohemia and Hungary. They also ruled parts of Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and Italy. However, loyalties to regions and ethnic groups were growing. Nationalist minority groups wanted to be free from the Austrian Empire. They wanted self-rule.

In 1867, the leaders of Hungary worked out a deal with Austria. They set up the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The Emperor of Austria still ruled as King of Hungary, but Austria and Hungary were separate states. Each made its own laws. By 1900, nationalists in other lands were pressing for liberty. Like the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans ruled a huge empire. It was home of many groups. Among them were the Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Romanians. During the 1800’s, groups in the Balkans rebelled. Serbia won freedom in 1817. The south of Greece freed itself in the 1830’s. The powers of Europe saw a chance to gain Ottoman lands. Russia, Austria-Hungary, Britain, and France all took part in wars and changing alliances. At the same time, groups within the empire launched revolts and fought amongst themselves.

Whereas Camillo di Cavour directed Italian unification, a Junker (the Prussian name for an aristocratic landowner from old Prussia in the east) named Otto von Bismarck pushed German unification through "blood and iron" and skillful understanding of realpolitik. As the map of central Europe stood in 1850, Prussia competed with Austria for dominance over a series of small principalities fiercely keen on maintaining their independence and distinctive characteristics. Prussia proper stretched from modern-day Lithuania to central Germany. Prussia also controlled the German lands around the Rhine River in the west. In between, from Denmark to Switzerland, lay small provinces that Bismarck needed to incorporate under the Prussian crown to create a viable German Empire.

In 1862, Bismarck reorganized the Prussian army and improved training in preparation for war. In 1864, he constructed an alliance with Austria to fight Denmark over Denmark's southern provinces of Schleiswig and Holstein. Prussia received Schleiswig while Austria administered Holstein. That situation, however, could not stand for long, as Austrian Holstein was now surrounded by Prussian lands. Bismarck provoked a conflict with Austria over an unrelated border dispute and in the subsequent Seven Weeks' War--named for its brevity--Prussia crushed the collapsing Austrian army. The peace settlement transferred Holstein to Prussia and forced Austria to officially remove itself from all German affairs.

With Austria out of Bismarck's way, his next obstacle was the skepticism of the southern provinces. Overwhelmingly Catholic and anti-militaristic, the southern provinces doubted Prussia's commitment to a united Germany of all provinces. Prussia's Protestantism and historic militarism made the gulf between north and south quite serious. Therefore, Bismarck turned to realpolitik to unite the Germanic provinces by constructing a war against a common enemy. In 1870, Bismarck forged a note from the French ambassador, implying that the ambassador had insulted the Prussian king. After he leaked this letter to both populations, the people of France and Prussia, roused by nationalist sentiment, rose up in favor of war. As Bismarck hoped, the southern provinces rallied to Prussia's side without any hesitation. In July 1870, France declared war on Prussia. Within a matter of weeks of fighting in Alsace-Lorraine, France lost this Franco-Prussian War. Alsace-Lorraine was transferred to Germany in the peace settlement, allowing Prussia to declare the German Empire, or Second Reich, on January 21, 1871.

Italy, Germany had quite a few serious issues to resolve once unification took place. Regional differences, developing since the first settlement of the Germanic tribes during the Roman Empire, were distinct, and local princes refused to give up substantial power to the central government. The Berlin assembly, therefore, was kept weak. Germany, like the United States under the Article of the Confederation, seemed merely a loose of confederation of autonomous states. In Germany's case, one state, Prussia, was absolutely dominant due to its size, power, and military strength. This, combined with Bismarck's skillful conduct in international and national affairs as chancellor, kept the empire together until 1914.

However, the creation of a unified Germany in central Europe marked one of the greatest revolutions in the history of international relations. Since the establishment of nation-states in Europe, France, under the Valois-Bourbon royal line, dedicated its foreign policy to the weakening of Habsburg (Austrian and Spanish royal families) and the continued disunity of the Germanic provinces. Now that central Europe was united into two major powers--Germany and Italy--Europe was quite a different place. What would now become of the traditional balance of power in place since the defeat of Napoleon? The whole point had been that no one nation should gain excessive power and strength on the Continent. With the unification of Germany in central Europe--an essential economic and strategic region--was the balance of power doomed?
Nationalism: Building A German Nation
In the early 1800's, most German speaking people were loyal to thier own state. From 1807-1812, Napoleon of France raided German lands. Feelings of nationalism stirred in those who fought French rule. Some called for a unified Germany.

In 1830’s, Prussia set up a trade agreement among the German states. Each state still governed itself, but Prussia had become a clear leader under King William I.

Otto von Bismarck appointed chancellor in 1862, guided policies. Bismarck aimed to unite the German states under Prussian rule. He was not, however, driven by nationalism. His goal was to make the ruling class of Prussia masters of a German empire.

Bismarck followed a tough policy he called “blood and iron.” He led Prussia into 3 wars. Each moved the German states closer to unity. In 1864, Prussia teamed up with Austria to take lands from Denmark. In 1866, the great Prussian army turned against Austria. Bismarck let Austria keep self-rule, but took some northern states. In 1870, he encouraged war between Prussia and France. His triumph in the Franco-Prussian war stirred German pride. In 1871, the German states united under William I. Kaiser (emperor) William I, and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck became two of the most powerful people in Europe.

Strengthening Germany
After Germany unified in 1871, it became the leader of industry in Europe. Before unification, many states had big factories and fin railroads. The new nation built upon this progress. Germany had plenty of coal and iron, both needed by industries of the late 1800’s. A population boom provided Germans to work and to buy products.

Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had great plans for Germany. Foreign goals included keeping France weak and isolated and building ties with Austria and Russia. At home, he set out to crush all threats to the empire. He feared that Catholics put their church before their state and launched an anti-Catholic campaign. The moves against the church were met with outrage, and Bismarck ended his attack. The Chancellor also feared that the growing power of socialists could lead to revolt. He banned their meetings. When workers ignored the bans, Bismarck set up new programs to meet their needs. He felt that happy workers would not turn to socialism.

In 1888, William II took the place of his grandfather as Kaiser. The new ruler wanted total power and, in 1890, he shocked Europe by asking Bismarck to step down. William II stopped all moves toward Democracy. He made sure his people had good services, including schools that taught students to obey their Kaiser. He funded the largest army in Europe and built up the Navy. Then he set out to gain colonies in other lands.

Class Presentation on Germany's Unificiation

The Height of Imperialism
Between 1800 and 1914, a powerful group of European countries and the United States came to control much of the world. In so doing, they forever changed the people and cultures of the lands they conquered.

Homework Assignment: Print the "Height of Imperialism Homework" below and complete the chart to review the main events for this unit of study. In the middle column, use dates wrte the names of important individuals involved in each event. In the right-hand column, write a brief description of the outcome of each event.