The Origins of Nationalism Essay

Submitted By MrRob1427
Words: 1190
Pages: 5

Robert Bearden
History 101
Nationalism Essay
The Origins of Nationalism The conceptual idea of nationalism dates back to ancient times before history was even made. It began with loyalty. Loyalty to one’s family and community are where nationalism had its first beginnings. Only until the formation of cities and later countries, did nationalism start to define itself. The definition of what nationalism is may be difficult to grasp, but the concept can be put into words. Nationalism focuses on specific communal, cultural, and historical traditions of a people with an established way of life. These all work together in unison to create a broad and full understanding to what nationalism means. Nationalism begins at its lowest level with specific communal traditions. The traditions formed by communities are what give its people their identity. The land, language, and character of people are what bring them together. Land or certain natural boundaries can divide and separate a people from others close by. Being tied to an island or bordered by mountains can cause boundaries that keep people separated from each other for long periods of time. This seclusion helps shape communities into their way of life. A community at the sea level can have different oral and religious traditions than one high up in the mountains even if located relatively near each other. This doesn’t mean that they speak a different language or follow a different religion. This could mean they have a distinct dialect or posses certain religious traditions specific to that community. This can be compared with the United States and the individual states within it. When looked upon, certain states may have different phrases they use, foods they make, or accent they posses. Johann Gottfried von Herder would agree, “The structure of the earth, in its natural variety and diversity, rendered all such distinguishing conditions inescapable . . Seas, mountain ranges and rivers are the most natural boundaries not only of lands but also of peoples, customs, languages and empires” (Herder, Materials for the Philosophy of History). These traditions within smaller communities are the foundations that hold a people together forming the backdrop for nationalism. When taking in the bigger picture and focusing on the bigger community at hand, a culture is defined. This broader outlook at a people with similar ways of life forms a culture. A culture can be defined as an identity as stated by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, “Those who speak the same language are joined to each other by a multitude of invisible bonds by nature herself, long before any human art begins; they understand each other and have the power of continuing to make themselves understood more and more clearly; they belong together and are by nature one and an inseparable whole” (Fichte, Address To The German Nation). As stated above, the same language is a product of a culture. So are certain beliefs, values, and behaviors. These shared practices are what characterize a people. Not only do these internal aspects of a culture define it but also external features such as similar skin color or ethnicity. Nationalism draws from each of these characteristics of a culture; the same language, beliefs, and ethnicity all play part. Cultural traditions play the most important role in defining nationalism. These shared traditions in turn can make a people feel a sense of pride for themselves and then in turn creates loyalty to their country. When certain government officials called for a unified Irish republic they said, “Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and the dead generations from which she receives her old traditions of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom” (Clarke, Proclamation of the Irish Republic). Here they are calling upon the Irish community to support the republic based on similar traditions that give them their identity. Pride for ones own