Italy and Germany are two important examples of how language, folk culture and common historical memories led to very strong nationalistic feelings helping to build the two people into sovereign, united and independent nations  states  by  1870.

Both Germany and Italy emerged as nation- states in the 19th century. Although the idea of nationalism in some form or other can be traced back in time in both cases, the actual development of nation-states took place only in the 19th century. The process of unification was different in the case of Germany from that of Italy. While in Germany the economic and political unity was achieved at a much higher level, in Italy the unification was achieved mainly at the political and cultural levels. The economic unity in Italy was much weaker in comparison.  In Germany, the unity was brought about mainly from above. But in Italy, the popular mobilizations also played an important role. Apart from these factors, wars also provided the impetus which brought the people together and helped in forging the respective    nations.

Increasing importance of language as a factor in the emergence of nationality conflicts in the  late 19th century was of special significance in unification of Germany and Italy. Language became an issue in international politics  with the dispute between the Danes and the Germans and over Schleswig-Holstein and of the Germans and French over the Rhine frontier during the 1840s. The history of German and Italian nationalism can be said to be a struggle to unite German and Italian speaking people within a single nation state. The protagonists were Prussia and Piedmont-Sardinia which forged national unity by skillful diplomacy and warfare on the one hand and pragmatic handling of popular national sentiments and occasional revolutionary upsurges.


Idea of A German Nationality

The impetus to the idea of a German Nation was provided by the French Revolution and the Simplification of the political map of Europe and of the German states by the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleonic armies. During the early Middle-Ages various Germanic tribes and Celts and Slavs were fused by a process of conflict and assimilation into the German people. Even when the German  races felt bound to each other by ties of blood – the Saxons, Franks, Bavarians and Swabians – they did not have the consciousness of being  German.

The connection between Lutheranism and the rise of German nationalism was slight since their struggle was primarily against the Antichrist in Rome and not limited to national issues. The Protestant translations of the Bible into the German vernacular led to the growth of modern German but the growth of German nationalism actually took place with the rise of German Romanticism.

The Renaissance and Reformation in Germany were primarily scholarly and theological events and so these movements failed to destroy the medieval idea of World Empire or to change politics and society as in the West European countries. German nationalism like that of the Russians became preoccupied with the “soul” or “mission” of the nation  since  it  was not rooted in social and political reality and constituted “a venture in education and propaganda rather than in policy shaping and government”. Still, one can say that Martin Luther’s rejection of the authority of the  Pope and translation of the Bible into German created the  basis  for  a  national consciousness.


Political and Economic  Background

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the political fragmentation of Germany was partially overcome by the reduction in the number of sovereign German states to thirty-eight from   the


three hundred states of the Holy Roman Empire which was abolished. The German Bund was created in 1815 in order to preserve “the independence and sovereignty of the individual German states”. The concert of Europe, created after the Congress of Vienna, was a system designed by the conservative monarchies of Austria, Prussia and Russia to check to spread     of  democratic  idea  in Europe.

Very limited powers were granted to the representative institutions introduced after 1815 in the German states. While after 1848 most German states introduced  democratic  reforms,  in Prussia the pace of reforms was slower since electoral votes were allocated equally to three groups of income-tax payers, the divisions being made on the basis of income tax revenue payments. Prussian system of representation remained in force until 1918 and constituted an important basis for the perpetuation of a backward  political system.

The defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 led to the creation of the North German Confederation. The defeat of France in the Franco-German War of 1870-71 led to the creation of the Imperial German government. A national parliament elected on the basis of adult franchise – the  Reichstag  –  and  representatives of the 25 German states in the Federal Council    or Bundesrat were to shape the policy of Imperial Germany. The Prussian king became the German Emperor with control over the German armed forces and the Reich Chancellor was also Prussian. However, the Imperial Reich was not     a unified state like that of Britain or a centralized state like that of Frances. In the Federal Council or Bundesrat the Prussians controlled a plurality but not a majority of votes since concessions had to be made to Bavaria and Wurttemberg to entice them  into  the  Imperial Reich.

The process of German national unification was shaped by Prussian conservatism and militarism but the process of centralization under the Imperial Reich was affected by local and centrifugal  forces.

In Prussia public industrial and technical schools after 1820 encouraged industry for national political reasons. Liberal entrepreneurs linked the issue of industry for the fatherland to expectations of political unity before 1848. The engineering associations of the 1850s and     1860s


carried these ideal further. Camphausen, Siemens, Hansemann, List and Harkort were German entrepreneurs who believed that they were also part  of  “a  national  civilizing mission”.

Dahrendorf has argued that Germany developed into an industrial but not a capitalist society. The presence of a sizable Mittelstand or intermediate stratum of small producers is evidence of incomplete modernization. The German nation state, unlike the French, was not founded on the basis of liberal democratic ideas and the weakness of the German liberal bourgeoisie  is largely responsible for  this.



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