Nationalism & Jingoism

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Nationalism & Jingoism

Nationalism is a gut feeling of loyalty towards one’s nation, united as one by race, language and history. It is the single most powerful force in modern history and has a few good points, but has caused and causes dislike and distrust of other nations, nearly always neighbours.

   In the French Revolution (q.v.) nationalism surged, and was associated with the people’s sovereignty. The people were to come first; any pretension to authority over the people, such as the Monarchy, Parliament, the Church, the Nobility etc. were to be swept aside or ignored: which of these two ‘solutions’ was to be used was a matter of individual character; the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789)’ states that sovereignty resides in the nation – itself a pretty good rallying cry for Nationalism.

    This was not however the case in the other, still existing European monarchies, whose nationalism was a reaction to French domination. The popular uprisings in Spain during the Peninsular War (1808 – 1814 q.v.) was by no means in the favour of the sovereignty of the people but a more conservative movement of self-defence, and intense dislike of what Spaniards called (and call) ‘Los Franchutes’. No love was lost between the Spaniards and the French, especially as Napoleon had placed his own brother on the Spanish throne. He was known as ‘Pepe la Botella’ – though in fact Joseph drank no more than anyone else at that time.

   In Germany Herde and Fichte wrote that language was important in forming national character and therefore foresaw the unity of all the Germanic race, but they were in a small minority.

In Cataluña today a small minority strongly led by nationalists like Artur Mas seems determined to force the use of Catalan on the whole of Cataluña willy-nilly. In some courts citizens are not allowed to give evidence in Castilian, which is the language of all Spain.

   The Congress of Vienna (1815) neglected nationalism in its concern for the balance of power: the painful result was that Belgium was handed to the Dutch; Venice to Austria, and even Norway to Sweden! Poland was sliced up between Russia, Prussia and Austria. This was mainly the work of Metternich (q.v.) who seemed determined to break up nationalism, which he claimed would lead to the break up of the Austrian Empire. Indeed it did so between 1815 and 1848. Only Belgium and Greece got their independence in these years. This was possible because Great Britain and France aided Belgium, and the Great Powers (q.v.) went to war with the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence (1821 – 32)

   It is arguable that nationalism is an artificial, not a spontaneous growth; therefore institutions, schools, bureaucracy and conscript armies must be created to create a nation, and, most importantly, a feeling of the ‘nation state’. Schools can foster and embrace nationalism, as in the United States where for years (and still in some states) the school day began or begins with massed homage to the Flag. School authorities ensure that all subjects are taught in the same language (in Cataluña the nationalists are trying to force teachers to run their classes entirely in Catalan). In Ireland at the end of the 19th century attempts were made to enforce teaching in Gaelic only. No doubt the Scottish National Party would like to do the same in Bonnie Scotland, but few teachers of Pictish can be found.

   After the hopeless and sanguinary First World War ended and the Treaties began to proliferate, nationalism appeared to have triumphed. Independent nation states were created for Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. But in fact all that had happened was the sowing the seeds of future conflict, because there were very large national minorities in the following states: Hungarians in Czechoslovakia, Roumania and Yugoslavia; Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Later along came Adolf Hitler combining late nineteenth century nationalism – emphasis on national purity, belief in the superiority of the Aryan race, violence as a means to an end etc. with his claim to embody the will of the German peoples: Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer. A supreme nationalist, Hitler seized what he said were German lands, Austria (the Anschluss q.v.), Czechoslovakia (1938/9) and part of Poland (1939). Thus he unleashed the dogs of war (II World War 1929-45 q.v.).

   Far from Europe, it was nationalism in its most aggressive form that was demonstrated in Japan’s attack on China in the Sino-Japanese War, and later in the taking of Manchuria (1931), and then the invasion of China in 1937. Nationalism was involved in the Boxer Uprising in China (1900), very much encouraged by the Empress.

   These national movements, plus many others too numerous to mention succeeded as a result of war, which is basically what extreme nationalism leads to. But the Second World War knocked the European empires down like a collection of broken skittles, and we saw independent national states rising out of the mayhem.

Jingoism is a mood of aggressive, mostly hysterical nationalism. Its best example happened in 1878, after the Treaty of San Stefano greatly increased Russia’s influence in the Balkans. It became rapidly obvious that Britain might have to go to war with Russia. A music hall song appeared: ‘We don’t want to fight:,;  But by jingo if we do, We’ve got the men, we’ve got the ships, We’ve got the money too!’

This time war with Russia was averted (the Crimean War had been in 1853), but jingoism appeared in Britain at any time of national crisis abroad. The relief of Mafeking in 1900 during the South African War (1899- 1902) was celebrated in London by what was described by the Anglo-Saxon Review as ‘seething crowds, waving flags, blowing horns and howling in a frenzy of delight’. At the end of the 19th century jingoism was whipped up by cheap newspapers such as the Daily Mail and was most common among what is called the ‘white-collar’ workers.

Another example of jingoism was to be found in the Sun’s infamous headline spread across the newspaper’s front page when the Belgrano was sunk by order of Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands (Malvinas) War, causing thousands of deaths. The paper printed one word – ‘GOTCHA!’ which, being translated into English, means ‘Got you!’

By | 2012-08-22T10:12:39+00:00 August 22nd, 2012|World History|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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