Making Sense of 19th Century Nationalism

F.G. Stapleton introduces the ‘weather vane ideology’.

'Nationalism is a political force which has been shaping the history of Europe and the world over the last two centuries more than the ideas of freedom and parliamentary democracy, let alone communism.’ Most historians would agree with Peter Alter’s proposition (Nationalism, 1994, page 1). As an ideology that emerged out of the Enlightenment and French Revolution at the end of 18th century, nationalism’s political potency in contemporaneous world affairs is reinforced daily by global television journalism as the remaining single cause of inter-state conflict. Yet its aspirations, origins, socio-political impact, mass popularity and relationship to democratic traditions have been, are and will vary from state to state and epoch to epoch. To understand its historical meaning, or meanings, we need to trace its course historically.

Defining the Problem

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