Nationalism

Yet another force unleashed by the French Revolution was the idea of nationalism.  After 1789, each French citizen now owed a higher allegiance and duty to his/her country, not just to the king.  Further, it was no longer just a country or state, but the "nation," a spiritual/mystical concept of a community of people bound together by ties of language, culture, religion and history.  The ultimate duty of citizens of a nation, in addition to paying taxes, was military service to defend the nation. (See the French Levée en Masse from 1793.)  In the nineteenth century, a series of nations emerged in Europe, ranging from large and powerful like Germany to small and weak like Albania (really the early twentieth century).  In most cases, the creation of a nation was accompanied by military conflict.  In all cases, the new nations discovered that it was really not that easy to "create" a nation with people who had no idea that they were part of a nation.
 
After the Napoleonic wars, diplomats in Europe tried to maintain order on the continent.  This effort is usually termed the Concert of Europe.  Historians often credit the concert system with sparing Europe from major war for a century (from 1815 to 1914), but on closer examination that was hardly the case.  There were revolutionary uprisings in 1830, 1848 and 1863 that required the intervention of armed forces.  There were also a number of wars that involved the great powers: 1853-55 Crimean War, 1866 Austro-Prussian War, 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War, 1877 Russo-Turkish, 1903 Boer War and the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.  There was also a series of Balkan conflicts and the 1863 Russian intervention in Poland.

In other words, the nineteenth century was far from being a peaceful century.  Especially since the process of creating Germany and Italy upset the balance of power on the continent.  In the case of both countries, that meant that war had to be used to achieve the end of national unity.  That is a clear intention in Bismarck's memoirs that you have read.  On the other hand, victory meant happiness.  You can see that jubilation expressed, for example, in
King Victor Emmanuel's Address to Parliament (1871).  But there was also distress, deep distress, especially in France where a new republic emerged after the disaster of the Franco-Prussian conflict, and it could have been a far more radical political outcome. (See John Leighton: One Day Under the Paris Commune.)

Finally, just as quickly as Germany, led by Bismarck, upset the apple cart in Europe and created itself as the premier power on the continent, Bismarck sought to restore the "Concert of Europe" and ensure political stability on the continent so that no one could challenge German hegemony.  Bismarck crafted a series of complicated, inter-locking alliance and treaty obligations to make sure that France would remain isolated and that Germany would be calling the diplomatic shots in Europe.  In many respects the key to Bismarck's diplomacy lay in the Dual Alliance Between Austria-Hungary and Germany (7 October 1879).
 
Some recommended online lectures and websites:
  • Franco-Prussian War
  • Otto von Bismarck and the Franco-Prussian War
  • Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany.  Interesting that there is a note on Bismarck on the US Social Security website.
  • For extra credit please suggest to your instructor a relevant website for this unit of the course. Send the title of the site, the URL and a brief explanation why you find the information interesting and applicable to the material being studied in this unit.
 
 

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