These ideas of national language as the stamp for nationality, as with the idea of a national mission were mainly of German origin. As this period progressed it became increasingly normal for German scholars to place a national language as the major factor in national unity. Schools and the press helped spread this ideal of linguistic nationalism. This meant that the large-scale growth of primary education during the 19th century went hand in hand with the growth of popular nationalism, which had evolved, from the common beliefs in Germany about linguistic nationality being a pre-cursor for national unity.
During the early part of the 19th century leading German nationalists Fichte and Jahn had already drawn up detailed programmes of national education stressing patriotic history, compulsory manual work, gymnastics and military sports. Although these exact wishes had not occurred there was a department of public instruction formed in Prussia in 1807 and in 1833 school fee abolishing had begun. Then in 1872 a uniform national curriculum in German schools was introduced. By this time in Europe most ordinary men were acquiring through literacy some access to political ideas, mainly nationalism.
This took place after the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, the North German Confederation being established in 1867, the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71 and the German Unification in 1871. These events had also helped to strengthen German patriotism as having a common enemy i. e. Austria then France, often does. During the Austro-Prussian war there was a massive surge of public support that actually shocked Bismarck (Prussian chancellor at the time) immensely. This development of nationalism in its early stages had depended greatly on the development of national literature at the same time.
Especially the development of newspapers in the highly symbolic national language, more so even than it had relied on the growing educational system, these newspapers aided the creation of the first German national opinion. The linguistic nationalism had proved then in 19th century European life that it could be creative. It had rediscovered forgotten literatures, given powerful impetus to the study of national history and folklore and was the largest single element in the cultural nationalism apparent in the “national” composers of the later 19th century e. g.
Dvorak in Bohemia, Mussordsky in Russia and Grieg in Norway. This had bridged the gap between a cosmopolitan high culture and a local popular one. However linguistic nationalism could also be defined as having bad results. It meant that normally a ruling nation would deliberately prevent the development of the language of a subject people and maybe even hinder the development of a people’s culture. By 1855 and in the second half of the 19th century, the publication of books such as Alfred Gobineau’s work on phrenology and the natural inequality of races, made nationalism a lot more race based.
Developing Darwinian Biology backed this up, and these two factors led to the view that the only viable forms of state had to be at least linguistically homogenous, if not racially pure. People began to study racial hierarchies and phrenology became more and more popular (this is the belief that the shape of a man’s skull would determine his character and intellect). The growth of anthropology and sociology as pseudo-sciences, helped to give racial beliefs academic respectability in Europe.
Alfred Gobineau’s afore mentioned work was an important and radical statement that suggested that superior civilizations may be weakened by their mixture with inferior ones. This was prominent in Germany as he put the idea forward about, “the Aryan race being the creator of European civilization and the source of its vitality”. By the beginning of the 20th century serious scholars had dismissed these ideas they were still a major part of popular belief and fuelled racial nationalism.
These beliefs may have been unscholarly but they created a problem within international rivalries, this was that they put them into racial terms; therefore increasing bitterness and making them appear unsolvable. So it is know apparent that the growth of education and the increased literacy available in Germany because of the defeat of France and Austria took nationalism from a linguistic standing to a more racial one. After the 1871 German Unification there was a mass of antagonism between Germans and the French. This was created in part by the racial mythology that the Nordic people were superior to others.
Two of Frances greatest intellectuals of the day, Renan and Taine even agreed that a nation to be superior than another must have a racially as well as linguistically homogenous. This viewpoint obviously was adopted and used later in the 19th century by the Nazis to attempt to eradicate European Jewry. World War one was the next major factor in redefining German Nationalism. It was seen by the German youth as an apocalypse, the German nation was not prepared for defeat. They had been led to believe that the War was going well for Germany. This would have seemed so to as not one battle was fought on German soil.
This shock of loss meant that the gap between national dreams and political reality was widened further. The national dreams of the Germans became more aggressive and “the November Criminals” were blamed for defeat. The Nazis on their arrival to power later targeted this group. And it resulted in the racial hatred of the German people for the Jewish people. The loss of World War One provided the necessary ingredients for the shift of nationalism in Germany to a united aggressive outlook for both German success and for revenge. It is very difficult to actually define nationalism throughout the period 1815-1919.
The moods of nationalism however did change considerably during the period. In 1814-15 during the Vienna settlement European and German nationalism was heavily based on religion and a defensive perspective. For example catholic powers and states in Germany looked after each other, this made Bismarck nervous throughout his time as President of Prussia. Mazzini and other liberal thinkers around the 1830-1848 period helped introduce an almost mythical nature to nationalism, for example the national spirit that emerged amongst the middle classes in Prussia, the most dominant German state.
After the 1848 revolutions nationalism had become more aggressive, chauvinistic and above all else more popular, the idea of a linguistically homogenous society giving a nation its identity caught on. This was aided by the mass growth of education and increased amount of literature which acted as a turning point in German nationalism making it more race related due to people realizing past feuds between nations. This historical literature collided with the onset of phrenology and Darwinian biology becoming more popular and subsequently popular belief in Germany was that the Aryan race was superior to all others.
This was then smashed by the loss of World War One (another turning point for nationalism) German nationalism became bitter and called for vengeance and the success of Germany. This then hampered the subsequent Weimar Democracy set up after World War One because there was already opposition to a non-aggressive government and those who had missed the war felt a strong patriotism and fought for change with groups such as the Spartacists and others in 1919 and early 19th century.