(Sample Material) UPSC Mains General Studies: Paper 1 - "History Of World (Part-1)"

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Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)

Topic: History Of World (Part-1)


Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century

The term ‘nationalism’ comes from the word nation. It means people having emotional and psychological attachment towards a region or territory. There are other traits that develop with this attachment, namely, common ancestry, culture, history and ethnicity. The nation state is one where people cherish the values of togetherness.

Nationalism represents the spirit of unity among people. Political, cultural, and emotional integrity together make a nation strong. National feelings rise when a nation is threatened by foreign invasion or serious internal troubles. People’s unity is tested at the time of dangers, both external and internal. For example, the heroic act of Joan of Arc to save her country, France, aroused national feelings. Alan Bullock, a British historian, says that nationalism represents “feeling of belonging to a group united by common racial, linguistic and historical ties, and usually identified with a particular territory”. British philosopher, Roger Scruton, explains the concept of nationalism as “a sentiment and ideology of attachment to a nation and its interests”. From a traditional perspective, nationalism is identified with spiritual character. Eminent historian C.J.H Hayes goes to the extent of classifying nationalism into six categories, namely, humanitarian, Jacobin, traditional, liberal, integral and economic. Nationalism had its origin during the birth of Israel i.e. when Moses asked his followers to go to the ‘Promised Land’. Greek philosophers like Socrates also made reference to the rise of nationalism among the Athenians and the Spartans. During the time of the Roman Empire, the Roman citizens spoke about their empire with a sense of pride.,In modern times, nationalism came to the fore during monarchical tyranny. For example, the English and the French overthrew their tyrannical rulers in the 1648 and the 1789 revolutions respectively. C.J.H. Hayes referred to the French Revolution of 1789 as an outcome of Jacobin Nationalism. Napoleon’s victories in Europe gave the French a sense of national pride.

The countries defeated by Napoleon felt humiliated. For instance, Napoleon’s ill-treatment of the Prussians, Pope, Spaniards, Italians and Russians rebounded on him in course of time. They all conspired with Britain to bring about his downfall in the final Battle of Waterloo. They had all suffered from Napoleon’s oppressive rule. It is no exaggeration to say that Napoleon, by his conquests, roused feelings of nationalism. Egoistic and greedy, Napoleon “reversed the aims and principles of the movement from which he sprang”. He invaded countries which were under despotic rule, and assumed the role of a saviour. But he turned out to be the worst dictator. He conquered the Papal States and carried away priceless treasures and work of art. After freeing small kingdoms of Italy from their oppressive rulers, he imposed his despotism on them. His conquest of Italy, followed by the appointment of his incompetent brother as its governor, proved to be his great undoing. Therefore, Napoleon no longer represented the objectives and principles of the French Revolution of 1789.

In the midst of the dark cloud of Napoleonic tyranny, there was a silver lining; he roused the spirit of nationalism among the oppressed people. At the Congress of Vienna of 1815, the Austrian Chancellor, Mettemich, tried to turn the clock back by restoring the kingdoms to their former rulers.

Congress of Vienna

After the downfall of Napoleon, the European statesmen were confronted with complex problems created by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic conquests. Kings who had lost their thrones put forward their claims. Similarly, those countries which were responsible for the defeat of Napoleon submitted their claims for compensation. National boundaries which were disturbed by Napoleon had to be set right. Also arose the problems of punishing France and her allies for causing havoc. After sending Napoleon to the island of Elba, the victorious allies started negotiations in Vienna in September, 1814. Amidst great pomp and celebrations, the decorated Austrian capital received statesmen of Europe. Lord Castlereagh of Great Britain, Prince Von Hardenburg of Prussia, and Count Nesselrode of Russia were the first to arrive at Vienna. A few days later representatives of other nations arrived. In course of time Talleyrand of France too gained prominence despite France being a defeated nation. After a few days came the great monarch, Czar Alexander I of Russia and Frederick William III. Prince Mettemich of Austria offered them wonderful hospitality and the Congress became a most glittering event in the history of Europe. In the words of CD. Hazen, the Congress of Vienna remained as “one of the most important diplomatic gatherings in the history of Europe”. Amidst scenes of social gaiqty and personal intrigues, the deliberations started.

Within a few days, there arose serious differences over the demands put forward by Russia and Prussia and it looked as though war was round the corner. Russia demanded large territorial gains in Poland, and similarly, Prussia claimed Saxony. However, after cooling their frayed tempers, these countries arrived at a compromise. News reached that Napoleon had left the island of Elba and might reach the French shores. After defeating Napoleon once again in the Battle of Waterloo, the allies commenced their deliberations.

It was Prince Mettemich who guided the discussions during the early stages regarding territorial settlements. It was he who prescribed that two principles should govern their action in the redistribution of territories in Europe, namely, the principles of legitimacy and compensation. The rulers who had lost their kingdoms because of Napoleonic conquest should be restored to their power. Again, those nations which had been mainly instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Napoleon should be amply rewarded for their labour. Similarly, those who had helped Napoleon should be punished and their territories should be distributed among the victorious allies.

Napoleon and France were accused of causing the greatest political turmoil ever witnessed in the history of Europe. However, Talleyrand, being a wily French diplomat, ably argued in defence of his country by stating that France did not cause wars, but Napoleon did. Therefore France was not the culprit and doesn’t deserve punishment. Since Napoleon had been punished already, France was at peace with therest of the world. His convincing argument overwhelmed the allies, and they agreed to restore France’s old borders of 1792. Thus France was let off leniently but on condition that King Louis XVIII would govern the people of France according to a charter of freedoms. So King Louis XVIII came back to France after his short sojourn during the Hundred Days of Napoleon. The allies hoped to check any ambition on the part of France (or any possible expansionist schemes of persons like Napoleon in future) by surrounding her with sufficiently powerful kingdoms. The peacemakers of the Congress of Vienna then turned their attention to examining the claims of many powers and kings affected by Napoleonic wars. Russia claimed a major part of the reward for her active participation in bringing about the defeat of Napoleon. Czar Alexander I was undoubtedly a great personage in the order of merit and he claimed the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. It may be remembered that this Duchy was created out of the parts of Poland held by Austria and Prussia (after three partitions) before Napoleon conquered it. Czar Alexander hoped to unite the Duchy of Warsaw with the part of Poland he held and rule it himself, not as emperor of Russia but as a king of Poland. In other words, the united Poland would not be merged with Russia. Russia was eager to take Finland from Sweden and Bessarabia from the Turks. With this Russia hoped to expand her dominions on both sides, westwards and southeastwards.

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