Redrawing the Map of Europe

Europe witnessed a dramatic rise in nationalist fervor in the middle of the nineteenth century, leading to the unification of Italy and the German states. Giuseppe Mazzini’s On Nationality highlighted the trend towards uprisings under the banner of liberty rather than uprisings for the sake of power or wealth. ((Giuseppe Mazzini, On Nationality, 1852)) With cries for liberty came cries countries to be united based on nationality. Mazzini campaigned for Italy to be a country comprised of “a human group called by its geographical position, its traditions, and its language,” which he believed would result in a peaceful nation of common peoples. ((Mazzini, On Nationality)) Mazzini, a politician and the driving force behind the movement for Italian unification, wrote to convince his contemporaries of a necessary redrawing of the map of Europe, with nationality rather than conquest being the basis for borders. Concurrently, the multitude of German states had become an object of war between Prussia and Austria.


Giuseppe Mazzini, Count Camillo di Cavour, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, “Fathers of the Fatherland”

In 1849, National Assembly in Frankfurt offered the German crown to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. ((Johann Gustav Droysen, Speech to the Frankfurt Assembly,1848)) In an earlier speech, Johann Gustav Droysen, a member of the assembly, argued for the superiority of Prussia over Austria because Prussia’s monarchy was “wholly German.” A Prussian Imperial Proclamation accepting the German crown in 1871 reiterated this nationalist connection. Wilhelm acquired power over Germany as a “duty to [their] common fatherland,” and asserted responsible for protecting the rights of all those in the German Empire. ((The Imperial Proclamation, 1871)) The simultaneous unifications of both nations were symptoms of nationalist zeal and a desire to live amongst, and be ruled by kinsmen. While considering the role nationalism played in shaping our understanding of nations and borders, I want to ask what influences (i.e. the French Revolution) may have spurred on the fervor in the nineteenth century, and what examples of nationalism exist today.

German Nationalism

Philosophers and authors Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried von Herder both had very similar ideas on what it meant to be a nation and what it meant for a group of humans living in a defined area to become a nation. In order to become a nation they all had to identify themselves similarly. Both of these authors came out of a turbulent time for Germany, Fitche was writing in 1806 and von Herder was in 1784. This time period in Europe can be recognized by the nations that began to form, no longer was Europe divided into many different municipalities scattered about.
The French Revolution began just five years after von Herder wrote his Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind. As von Herder watched the years of turmoil leading up to the French Revolution, as he watched the people of France become a single body working towards a single goal he theorized the importance of nations but more importantly nationalism. He saw that a group of people who have been defined by nature, whether it be language, terrestrial setting, or race, could gain a sense of purpose when they become proud of their sense of belonging to a nation. To relate this idea to popular culture all that one has to do is look at the Super Bowl and its super fans. These people get a sense of belonging when they watch their teams accomplish great acts and support them in any way they can find, whether it be building a giant Seahawks logo on their front lawn or getting the “Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX Champions” tattooed on their chest a week before the game is even played. Meanwhile a team also benefits from such fanaticism because it bolsters their morale and provides support for their purpose. This is the exact same way that nationalism works for a nation, the people are proud to be part of their nation so they support their nation, in return, with this support, the nation can accomplish great things, which creates more pride.
Fichte followed up von Herder’s ideas 22 years later, after the French Revolution had ended but just at the beginning of Napoleon’s conquests into Germany. Fichte was now looking at a united country of France, one that had found its nationalism and was proud to be. Napoleon had occupied many of the small insignificant Germanic townships and cities with ease and forced Fichte to see the importance of a nation, both from the self defense perspective and for the over all efficiency of a territory. He argues that “Thus was the German nation placed-sufficiently united within itself by a common language and a common way of thinking, and sharply enough severed from the other peoples-in the middle of Europe, as a wall to divide races not akin ….” (Fichte), meaning that there was a clear “German Nation”. An area defined by nature, language and common culture that significantly enough that it should become a single nation, a single nation which the people recognize and take pride in. Fichte proclaims that “German states, whose separate existence was in itself contrary to all nature and reason” (Fichte), he is clearly stating an obvious importance in the states of Germany to cease to be divided. If the nation-states were to cease to be divided then, as a nation, the Germans could become more than what they were. Both of these men helped to define the meaning of nationalism and they truly helped to show its power in the formation and longevity of nations.

Germany Becoming Germany

Back in 1806, Johann Gottlieb Fichte made his thirteenth address to the German Nation. Fichte was a German philosopher who was also a supporter of the French Revolution and the ideas behind it((Fichte, Johann Gottlieb. To the German Nation. Fordham University, 1997)). When the new country of France invaded the German states, Fichte was not as supportive anymore. He saw how the Frenchmen were different from the German people and thought the Germans could unite together like the French had.

In his thirteenth address here, Fichte was trying to rally the people of Germany together. Though his language gets a little complicated towards the end, Fichte was writing to the everyday people of Germany. This was his thirteenth address so the common people would have understood him by then. The common people were the ones that led the revolution in France, so the German common people could do the same.

Fichte was trying to get people to understand that the battles that the French had held with and for them was on German soil and German blood had been split. He indented to make a nation out of the German people who could understand each other, unlike the foreign Frenchmen.

The Unification of Germany

Otto von Bismarck’s successful unification of Germany is one of the most important events in European history.  Unifying over thirty principalities and other smaller states within the geographical vicinity of modern day Germany is, by far, Otto von Bismarck’s greatest achievement.  Starting as a Prussian statesman, Bismarck eventually rose to the title of Minister President.  At this point, Bismarck was beginning to make his move to unify.  In 1866, he had the states of Germany attack Austria.

Within the “Documents of German Unification”, Otto von Bismarck reviews his victory over Austria.  He interestingly notes that he wanted to “avoid wounding Austria too severely; we had to avoid leaving behind in her any unnecessary bitterness of feeling or desire for revenge”.  He continues, stating that he sees Austria as a future ally, and simply cannot afford to have a hostile nation to his east when he attacks France.  Additionally, Bismarck states that this conflict also enabled the German states to obtain more feelings of unity and nationalism under Prussia.

While still serving the Prussian crown, Bismarck already begins to create a collective German state.  Bismarck’s uses the cover of war to covertly instill nationalism within the citizens.  A brilliant albeit brutal move, Bismark will eventually utilize the tactic of using war to force unification when he attacks France.

Was Bismarck wrong to use war to create more German nationalism?  What would you have done differently?

Bismarck and Imperialism

The documents referring to German unification in the 20th century highlight the continual, consistent ideologies that prominent German diplomats maintained towards the struggle of unification for Germany throughout the 19th century. The mutual sentiments of these prominent diplomats advocated for the shifts towards unification with a willing and ambitions Prussia in order to solidify German nationality to restore the German imperial title under Wilhelm IV. Bismarck’s strong diplomatic influence was overpowered, however, when a council was held in his room, and it was decided, with the support of the Wilhelm IV, that Prussia should continue in its pursuit of imperialist endeavors. Bismarck had foreseen this, as he feared an large increase in Prussian power would shift Wilhelm IV’s original stance of unification peacefully as a proper long terms means for German stability to an imperial conquest.

Germany pre rev 1848

A map of Germany prior to the revolutions of 1848 displays the geographical mixture between Prussia and the German states and the overlap the Austrian Empire had with the German confederation.

Germany 1871

This map, however, shows the unification of Germany with Prussia after the Proclamation of 1871. Although the Austrian Empire held its original territory overlapping the German confederation, it was greatly weakened as a European chess piece relative to the new found power which lay in Prussia’s restoration of the German imperial title.

These shifts in power as a result of a century of calculated German diplomacy would have a monumental impact on the alliances between Prussia and the Austrian Empire into the 20th century.