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European Nationalistic Movements. Of the mid 1800s.

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After the fall of Napoleon, the European powers attempted to get Europe calmed down and settled into its old ways at the Conference of Vienna. While they were very successful in stopping wars, they were not even close to being successful in their attempts to stop the advance of democracy and to stop internal turmoil in the European nations. The 1800’s were a time of great changes throughout Europe.


Their were three main beliefs about how government should be run in the 1800’s. The Conservatives wanted to keep monarchies in control with little change. This belief was naturally held by monarchs and the old nobility. The Liberals wanted to give more power to elected parliaments, who were elected by only those who were educated and owned land. This belief was held by the bourgeoisie, or land owning middle class. The final belief was radicalism, which claimed that ALL people should have a say in the government.


While the debate about who should run things raged, a new belief in “nationalism”, arose. With the regular people beginning to have some say so (or at least believing they should have a say-so), citizens began to have pride in their nations. They became loyal to their culture and began to feel that they were “one” with their fellow countrymen. This movement or belief would lead to the formation of nation-states, built around cultural similarities. The nationalist movement was led by liberals and radicals as they pushed to create new nations in which everyone had a say in the government. Enlightenment ideas encouraged nationalism. When ethnic groups became consolidated under the powers that be following the Congress of Vienna this spawned nationalism as well.


The first location in which nationalism led to the creation of a new country was in Greece, on the Balkan peninsula. This area had been controlled by the old Ottoman Empire (a Muslim empire) for hundreds of years after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Even though the Europeans powers feared revolution, they supported a Greek revolt because it was against Muslims and because the ancient Greeks were so influential to European culture. The English, French, and Russians sent naval forces to help the Greeks defeat the Ottomans and in 1830 Greece became an independent nation.


After the victory of the Greeks, revolts sprung up all through Europe. People simply wanted to end the rule of kings and gain power to rule themselves. Dutch, Belgians, Austrians, Poles, and other ethnic groups rose up against their governments only to be defeated. In France, uprisings were fought on and off from about 1830 to 1848. King Louis-Philippe fell from popularity fighting and broke out in the streets of Paris between different groups wanting to run things. Reminiscent of the Revolution, things were extremely bloody. Eventually elections were held and Louis-Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte was elected president in a democratic movement. However, after four years, he became “emperor” and France was once again a monarchy.


In the early to mid 1800’s Russia, while being an enormous country, was far behind the rest of Europe with its technology. Russia was still very much a feudal society with very little machinery. Serfs still worked the land for landowners who had total control of the people. Russia was becoming weaker and weaker because of its lack of progress and innovation. Seeing this problem, in 1861 Czar Alexander II freed the serfs. He gave half of all farmland to the workers, while the old landlords kept the other half. The catch was that the serfs had to pay for the land that they received. They had 49 years to pay the debt. If they could not pay the debt, the would lose the land to the government. Alexander II was assassinated in 1881but the Russian people already felt they were now part of the country and nationalism grew.


Two other European countries were brought together by nationalistic feelings. Italians, who had been separated into several small kingdoms since the fall of Rome, were brought together over a series of wars and agreements between 1858 and 1870. Camillo di Cavour united the northern portion of Italy while Giuseppe Garibaldi and his army (known as the red shirts) joined the southern portion. They eventually joined Italy together as one nation under the leadership of King Victor Emmanuel II.


The 39 German states had been loosely joined into the German Confederation at the Congress of Vienna. In 1861, Wilhelm I became the ruler of Prussia. He hired Otto von Bismarck as his Prime Minister. Bismarck essentially made all of the decisions in Prussia without much input from Wilhelm, and with zero input from the parliament. Bismarck created a strong army and began to conquer territories. He took portions of Austria and France (where Germans lived) and united the rest of the German confederation countries into one large and powerful nation of Germany. The Second Reich following the Holy Roman Empire


Austrian Empire

Not all countries were united by Nationalism. Some countries had several different ethnic groups living within them, and those ethnic groups wanted to be countries of their own. This destroyed the once dominant large Austrian Empire, as it was broken into Austria and Hungary, while also losing land to the new countries of Italy and Germany. By 1871, the map of Europe had been changed dramatically.


Nationalism also led to a change in the arts. In order to show the greatness of each nation, new composers, musicians, sculptors, writers, and painters created new works to represent their countries. The mid to late 1800’s saw an explosion in the importance of the arts to each nation.

  • Three Artistic Movements Emerged:
  • Romanticism
  • Realism
  • Impressionism

Concern for the common man, for the Romantics, evolved not only from the democratic ideologies of the Age of Revolution, but also from a renewed interest in folk culture. While the search to preserve the stories, songs, legends, and verse was born, in part, from a nationalistic impulse, the Folk Movement conversely became the conduit for an international language of human commonality, at whose center stood the images of home and the heart.

romanticism cont
Romanticism cont.
  • Emphasized:
  • The Individual
  • Nature
  • Emotion
  • Invention
  • Imagination
  • Supernatural
  • Influenced:
  • Nationalism
  • Associated with:
  • Liberalism
  • Radicalism
  • Anti-Industrial Revolution
  • Brought about:
  • Essays
  • Gothic Literature
  • Longing for Old Times
  • Portrayed life the way it was
  • Came about under the harshness of urban life under the Industrial Revolution AND
  • As a backlash against RomanticismAND
  • Showed realities of life and sometimes harshness of life
  • Rejected supernatural elements of Romanticism


  • Rejected Drama
  • Often showed the “ugly” in life
  • Showed the ordinary
  • Showed things as real as could be (Invention of Photography comes during this time period)
  • Attempt to accurately portray visual reality through light and color
  • They were more interested in painting landscape and contemporary life than in recreating historical or mythological scenes.
  • Renior
  • Monet