During the Enlightenment period there was a surge of nationalism in regions where there had been little unity before. Johann Gottfried von Herder, a German philosopher, presents nationalism as a people who, as well as being bound together geographically, are culturally, linguistically, and historically linked1. In 1784, when Gottfried Von Herder published his work interpreting nationalism, Germany as we know it today was made up of many different small territories, the most prominent of these being Prussia. It’s possible then that this segmented area was the reason Gottfried von Herder was advocating so strongly for nationalism. It’s difficult to feel pride in your nation if you’re not entirely sure of what nation you’re a part of. France was another inspiration for the sudden support for nationalism. Gottfried von Herder specifically mentions in his writings that France was able to achieve a united state by forcing all of its citizens to speak French, which in turn connected the people2. He infers that a common language is key to establishing a culture and a nation.
Gottfried von Herder was not born into wealth; he was raised by poor parents and had the good fortune of being able to study under famous philosophers such as Immanuel Kant3. Seeing how he started as a peasant, I have to wonder if Gottfried von Herder saw the rise of the Third Estate in France and drew the connection between this revolution and a surge of nationalism in France. Did Gottfried von Herder’s economic status lead him to endorse nationalism so heavily?
Overall, Gottfried von Herder was one of many philosophers during the Enlightenment period who advocated for nationalism in a state. His country, education, and economic status were all influences to him as well as potential reasons that he believed so wholeheartedly in nationalism.