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France: The Birth Place of Modern Nationalism

french flag against blue sky

The birthplace of contemporary and modern nationalism is France, which originated from the legacy of the French Revolution in 1789 and is responsible for revolutions within the European continent, particularly in 1848.

The revolutions of 1848 were a series of republican revolts against European monarchies, beginning in Sicily and spreading to France, Germany, Italy, and the Austrian Empire. They all ended in failure and repression and were followed by widespread disillusionment among liberals.

Furthermore, the impact of the French Revolutionary Wars from 1793 to 1799 and the French Napoleonic Wars from 1799 to 1815 witnessed the French attempt to conquer the European continent and, through this process, exported French nationalism and French military technology to the rest of Europe.

(Nationalism is an ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.)

France: The Birth Place of Modern Nationalism


The development of nationalism is highly complex in the European context. Nationalism has three origins and its process of development.

The first is the legacy of the Greeks and the historian Herodotus, who spent his entire life working on just one project: an account of the origins and execution of the Greco-Persian Wars (499–479 B.C.) that he called “The Histories.”

(It’s from Herodotus’ work that we get the modern meaning of the word “history.”)

The Greeks created a sense of difference between the Persian and Greek people, and separate identities would be made from this belief of difference. Furthermore, the Greeks established the core DNA of nationalism.

Nationalism must be learned; people require knowledge of their geographical history to identify with the nation’s story, which is something that the French Revolution strongly promoted.

What constituted French or France in the 18th century was very much focused on France’s cities.

In contrast, its rural communities did not see themselves as French, merely identifying with the regions and having no educational or little educational understanding of French history and its standing in Europe.

This is why to be a nationalist and for nationalism to work, a person or people must have a particular view on what it means to be French, English and German.

However, Nationalism got a terrible reputation due to the actions of Germany and its people’s brand of nationalism; in the 20th century, nationalism greatly deteriorated the general attitude toward nationalism.

The author and writer Douglas Murray states that English nationalism, British nationalism, and French nationalism are not a problem.

The reason why politicians are scared of nationalism is German nationalism, which was the real problem.

For people reading this need a brief overview, it was German nationalism that caused the two world wars in the 20th century and the deaths of nearly a hundred million people.

Nationalism and Herodotus

The Roman Empire

Imperial Rome lasted from 31 BC to 476 A.D. or from the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantium in 1453 A.D.

During this period, the Romans established nationalism, being the foreigners and the barbarians not having Roman civilisation. Due to this concept, a key component of nationalism is the othering of other societies and the promotion of their Roman identities.

For the Romans, whether a person was from North Africa, the Mediterranean, or Arabia did not matter.

All that mattered was loyalty to the Empire and cultural assimilation into what it meant to be Roman. Roman leaders came from all corners of his empire, and it was not divided along racial lines, ethnic groups, or other identifications, which we consider today.

The United States’ identity is very much drawn upon racial discrimination, and race plays a predominant role in American politics and its psyche as a nation.

In contrast, it is the economic divide between the working, middle, and upper classes in countries like Britain.

The French see people who live in France and who are French citizens as purely French; they cannot be African or any other ethnic group because, due to the legacy of the French Revolution of 1789, everybody living in France is French.

The reason the French did this was that during the Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic wars, there was no sense in the nonurban areas of what it meant to be French, so to make the French French, the government made it so the people in France had to be French which included stamping out any remaining regional and ethnic differences within France after 1789.

Nationalism: King Edward I of England 1272 to 1307

Proto Nationalism

The earliest form of nationalism originates from Western Europe, notably the King of England, which has existed from 927 until the present day; with this nation also being an island nation, a sense of Englishness could be developed from the sense of otherness of the European continent.

This was developed due to the lack of communication technology before the development of the radio, Telegraph, and other faster forms of communication in the 19th century.

This allowed the English people to develop more independently from other influences throughout the European continent, making them culturally different from their European counterparts.

This difference and separation enabled the creation of the English Commons, one of the rare legal systems that developed separately from Roman law that dominated the European continent until this day.

In the 21st century, only two legal traditions are in use: the old Roman imperial law or Roman law and English common law, which both develop separately and independently of one another.

So now we’ve established the creation of separate cultural and legal traditions that helped to develop a sense of nationalism; the next part of nationalism generated within the kingdom of England was in the late 13th century when King Edward I of England ruled that country.

During his rule from 1272 to 1307, Edward I’s conquest of Wales took place between 1277 and 1283. It is sometimes referred to as the Edwardian Conquest of Wales to distinguish it from the earlier Norman Conquest of Wales.

The English flag of St George was used throughout King Edward I’s rule and continues to be used until contemporary times. This symbol highlights the emergence of an English identity, a form of Proto-nationalism that will continue to be developed throughout the late 13th until the 15th century.

Further compounding the creation of English nationalism was that from 1277 until 1453, England was at constant war with France, Scotland, and other neighbouring kingdoms, dukedoms, and principalities within Western Europe.

The Hundred Years’ War between 1337 and 1453 also helped establish a separate cultural and physical identity not linked to France’s predominant culture and influence, the most powerful kingdom throughout the mediaeval ages.

Nationalism: French Revoulution

What is French Nationalism

Modern nationalism’s birthplace is in France because the French created the concept of a nation-state that became connected to an ethnic group rather than building massive empires. A nation could sustain itself by supporting one ethnicity in one region.

This concept became functional and practical throughout different regions around the globe, enabling nations to hold themselves together by building a collective identity in contrast to empires that are multi-ethnic and prone to collapse either internally or externally.

The French created a stable system to make a nation function and develop reasons to keep the state alive.