German nationalism

To what extent did the aims and ideas of German nationalism change between 1815 to1919 It is the nature of German nationalism that is significant when answering this question. There are two opposing views, on the nature of German nationalism in 1815. The first view is the traditional view of the German nationalists of the period, who believed that the root of their nationalism dated back to an ancient sense of kinship bound together by a ‘devotion for their nation.

‘ This supports the view that the essence of German Nationalism had always been and was merely being rediscovered.

The rediscovery process was initiated by French occupation at the turn of the century causing much resentment from the Germans. This resentment is reflected throughout varying tiers of society via contemporary poetry and art. Therefore the nature of German nationalism was also very much a cultural development. The opposing view is the German nationalism, was not in fact an inherent sense German kinship, but a product of the times.

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This view takes the stance that German nationalism had very much evolved out of its situation in 1815, and continued to do so: that it was an ever changing social-cultural force, driven by modernity. Eric Hobsburn supported this view saying that “the basic characteristics of modern nationalism and everything associated with it are its modernity. ” Thus suggesting that German nationalism would not have developed and evolved without certain essential ‘maternities’ such as: mobility, standardised literacy, communication, printing, uniform schooling etc and ultimately was more a ‘policy of national independence.

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‘ It is a combination of both views which best defines the nature of nationalism, where at certain points during the period one was more significant than the other. However it should be appreciated that the second view can in fact accommodate the first, as it is not unreasonable to argue that the feelings of inherent German kinship were indeed part of the ‘evolution’ of German nationalism. Hence, in time, the ideas of German nationalism did change, and of a consequence so too did the aims of the German nationalists.

However, it should appreciated that there were varying types of German nationalists with different motives and slightly different aims; political nationalists, economic nationalists, liberal nationalists, radical nationalists, could all be deemed as having slightly different motives. Therefore changes in the nature of German nationalism were reflected by the failures or successes of the different German nationalists. For example, after the failure of the 1848 revolutions, and the demise of the Nationals-Liberals, German nationalism began being more realistic by nature than idealistic.

Although, it should also be acknowledged that nationalism was not a purely changing force, and some elements had to remain continuous; if the definition of German nationalism is to be regarded as the same in 1815 as in 1819, then continuity must remain in certain areas. For example, Franco-phobia, or passionate patriotism were traits that were continuous throughout the time period. Also, there may have been periods of continuity which strongly helped mould the shape of German nationalism: for example, the domination of Prussia was a continuous force but only from approximately 1850 and onwards.

Therefore it would logically follow that in the time period 1815 to1919, (an era of immense social, economic, cultural, and political development) both the ideas and the aims of German nationalism evolved as dramatically as the era dictated, but also in some respects did not, or indeed by definition could not, change, but remained continuous. In 1815, the Confederation of German Empire, was established by the forces of conservatism, namely the Austrian authorities as a loose structure for the German states.

It should be appreciated that at this point in time the nationalists in Germany were opposed to what the conservatives and monarchists wanted for Germany: in effect they were opposed to the established order of authority. This was not to change throughout the on coming hundred years, and remained as a familiar trait of German nationalism, continuously demanding from the established government further concessions. This is evident as early as 1813, during the battle of Leipzig, where those who felt passionate enough about their nation, felt that Germany should have a collective army.

These men fought in the nationalist volunteer brigade, under a flag of red, black and yellow (which in the future would become the colours of the German national flag). Although they posed no threat to the authorities at the time, they nevertheless demonstrated a desire for, a unified military, or at least for all those who were Germans to fight in unison against a common enemy: a concept that German national-liberals only realised after the failures of 1848, and one that Bismarck flirted with and exploited in the months leading up to the Franco-Prussian war.

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German nationalism. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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