Friday, January 23, 2009

Here is a comment I decided to make into a post:

I would like to make it clear that in my opinion, nationalism, used in a strictly national and military sense, has NOT been around for that long. It was only Louis XIV who created a national army for France. He was around in the 17th century, just two hundred years before Napoleon. It was a new thing that had not been going on until then. Before that people fought out of duty, fear, anger, pride, or to protect themselves, and of course to make money. When it comes to the spread of patriotism, there was no printing press before 1439. There were no salons, no reading cultures, no ideas spreading like wild fire, other than perhaps religious ones since the church was so well established and interconnected. It was a very isolated and personal existence as the majority of lives were agriculturally based.

As to nationalism as a whole, if there was any nationalism it was probably not national, but, manor-, town-, city-, state- or city-state-wide. You see Europe, had only come along as an Entity around the 13 or 1400s and the individual nations of Europe began forming as united political bodies from about then on. It seemed that as these nations grew stronger and more populated so too did the wars they fought; growing larger and more complex as nations ganged up on one another. People were much more concerned about heaven than they were about their nation during the middle ages. The New Monarchies that made these rough political boundaries into a Spain, a Britain, and a France. You can't really get fired up about nationalism until you have a nation to get fired up about.

Granted, Germany, around the time of Napoleon was not really a "nation" per se, but it wanted to be one, and it talked about being one, and it did so in the hopes that it would be it's own nation, and it fought for that image.

The city of Concord today has as much population as some of the major cities in the 16th and 17th centuries. The city of New York had as many people as some nations. People and their ideas have been spread out for a while.

I think that living in a small world today we forget how big the world used to be and how young we really are as a civilized race or even as a species.


Denali said...

I think, if you consider Germany's "wanting" to be a state as qualification for nationalism, then nationalism has been around since single rulers united massive empires. I don't think it's possible to hold an entity like, say, the Roman Empire together without a uniting love of country to some extent (SPQR and all that). Granted, many entities were held together more by religion and tradition (I'd put the South American empires under here) than purely nationalism, but if there was no nationalism before the 15th century as you suggest, none of the earlier civilizations that essentially spanned continents are anything more than a rabble that conveniently acts as a whole. Regardless of how big the world was back then, ideas (and not just religious ones) could hold sway over nations through word of mouth and message systems. Wherever there is fervor to stir for war, there is nationalism. Even if you are just inciting the mere 300 that you can field, you are still presenting your military, you citizens, with the idea of "their nation" which needs defending.

Cote Laramie said...

Thanks Sam, it's good to see a different side to things. I think you raise a very strong arguement. Nationalism is ancient when you look at the world as a whole and even in Europe when you go back to Roman times. I guess a country is only a country if you have nationalism, not the other way around.

And after all is said and done, it is not just one concept that makes anything happen; it is many. Things like tradition and religion are just as potent. And nationalism doesn't have to be ignited in a million hearts to be called nationalism.

So I have changed my opinion, there was nationalism before the 15th century and nationalism can take shape in more than one way.

I guess I could focus my point and say that it wasn't just nationalism that made people fight, although pride in one's nation was a factor.