The beginning of the nineteenth century was remarkable both for Britain and France. French Revolution affected the development of Europe. During this revolution, ultra-nationalist party appeared in France, and it is considered by some scholars as the beginning of nationalism. Before the development of nationalism, Europeans were rather loyal to a city and to a particular leader rather than to the nation. Capitalism in nineteenth century allowed great increases in productivity, at the same time as generating great social changes.
Nationalism is a political creed, it is the foundation of cohesive modern societies and their claim to authority is legitimized by it. Nineteenth century is called the age of nationalism. It is conditioned by social structure, intellectual traditions, cultural history, and geographical position, where it asserts itself. Theories of nationalism place native culture at the core of national self-fashioning. Was France or Britain liable to such processes? Let us see.
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Jean Jacques Rousseau had prepared the basis for the growth of French nationalism. He made an emphasis on popular dominion and the general collaboration of all informing the general will. He also regarded for the ordinary people as for the true reservoir of civilization. French revolution began the key moment in the development of nationalism in Europe. That is why France was not liable to any influences of nationalism. It was this country, which influenced the whole Europe. The French Revolution (1789-1799) was a period of radical social and political mayhem in France that had a great impact on the country and throughout the rest of Europe. France was ruled by the absolute monarchy for centuries. Within three years this system collapsed.
Was the situation the same in Britain? On the contrary, British nationalist movements developed rather evolutionary, than revolutionary. In the mid-19th century there were two parties, which presented their programs to government: the Anti-Corn Law League and the Chartists. Many times the Chartists’ claims were rejected. Only in 1867 their demands were met. That emergence of nationalism was rather liberal kind of nationalism. British nationalism refers to the appliance of nationalist ideas and policies to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The beginning of the nineteenth century was notable for Great Britain for its union with Ireland. The Act of such an union came as the natural series of the containment of the rebellion of the United Irishmen. However, British still ruled the majority in Parliament, and most of the decisions were taken without much regard for the opinion of Irish people. Could people of Ireland stand it? Sure, they could not. That is why new nationalist approach to dealing with Parliament was done. On the other hand, not all the people agreed.
More positive results in nationalistic movement were achieved in the first half of the century, when Daniel O’Connell was in charge. O’Connell supported the idea of emancipation. He gained the right for Catholics to vote, to have their own schools, and join professions. Despite having so many rights, they were not still allowed to sit in parliament, become judges, and hold high offices in army or navy. The other part of the century was associated with Charles Parnell, who was not as peaceful as O’Connell. Catholic Emancipation Bill was established in 1829. This document could be called both positive and negative. It brought positive changes to the life of ordinary people, who fought for it. Parliamentarians, who were opposed to these changes, suffered a lot. Even their lives were in danger. It can be called the brightest picture of the nationalistic actions. It also showed how and when a feeling of nationalism was created for a cause that goals could be accomplished. Nevertheless, those goals were not the leading step to full independence, or power all over the Britain. The only way to save the country and change the situation was to unite. Many of the tragedies are still used nowadays and they are violent. This struggle taught British people that in order to change they should come together. Contrariwise, this “coming together” may lead to violent ways of gaining the target.
All the revolutionary actions, both in France and in Britain, led to complications in economics. Capitalism arose in Western Europe during the industrial revolution. Many families moved to cities searching for work and better life. This influx of human capital, increased mechanization, and the concept of the Division of Labor allowed increasing the production. People, who owned this production, gained great benefits. Nevertheless, not everything was so good, as it seemed. The United Kingdom was locked in the struggle with Napoleonic France at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This war defined greatly the terms for institutional development, capitalism, etc. Napoleon’s aim was Europe to become economically autonomous. He introduced so-called “continental system”. This system was also pointed to cause some mercantile circles in UK. It was definitely wise decision, but British Government could resist this onslaught of agitation. This happened only because the United Kingdom was good in industrial revolution. Napoleon’s actions did not strike the industry in the UK, but, on the contrary, stimulated the growth of certain industries.
The situation in France might seem rather thriving. The development of capitalism was based in the growth of production, in agricultural exodus, and the concentration of new population in the cities. On the contrary, working conditions were infernal. People worked for 12, 14, and even up to 18 hours per day. Children, from three years of age (seven years more frequently) were used in the industrial work. Wages were low, and it affected the reproduction of work force. France became a classical example of revolutions.
Britain can be rightly named the birthplace of capitalism. As for France, it had little freedom. Sociological decisions are more popular than capitalistic ones. However, this could be objected by the fact the French thought was the most independent in the world. Those were Frenchmen, who led to the logical end all new ideas. The next difference between British and French capitalism is the difference between the roles of classes in forming capitalistic society. Which country could be named more successful in forming the future? Let us see.
English people were (and they still are) very freedom-loving. The world “censorship” disappeared in 17th century. On the contrary, Frenchmen could not allow telling anything they wanted. Freedom was rather privilege, than right. To say the truth, there were no rights for France. This fact was the main one in the forming of French society and its way to freedom, having rights, etc. French Revolution changed the state of affairs, but equality was still just “formal”. Although upper bourgeoisie got its place in the parliament, peasantry, wage workers, and the poor did not win anything from revolution. What is more, there was a law prohibiting any law organizations. Was that fair towards the people? It was absolutely not. The law was merciless even to petty bourgeoisie. It is easy to understand, that this term has pejorative meaning, despite the fact this class includes all educated and politically active citizens. As it was mentioned above, politically active British people, no matter what estate they belonged to, were heard in Parliament, even without any revolutions. What is more important, Britain is still a royal country, the people believe in their Queen, having at the same time suspicious opinion about Parliament. French system in its tries to follow English ages-old traditions in politics was just a miserable fake. Finally, the power of upper bourgeoisie became the power of money. Only on February, 24, 1848 people gained their free republic, their trichromatic flag, and, what is more important, more or less equal rights and freedoms.
There are some conclusions to be drawn. Does class play any role in shaping the national histories? It definitely does. Petty bourgeoisie in France and ordinary peasants and the poor of both Britain and France played a great role when the states were formed. The UK union with Ireland and French Revolution are perfect examples of nationalistic movements towards capitalistic development. French Revolution became the first step not only for France, but also for many other European countries towards changes. People were not any more afraid to say the truth. Despite the power of upper bourgeoisie in France and other upper estates in other countries, people achieved their right to take part in political life of the country, in decisions concerning their future. Actually, the people became the creator of the country’s future.
Capitalism and nationalism cannot be regarded in separation. These movements influenced greatly each other. Nation will become the first step to nationalism and thus to the development in different spheres. The development in business, industry, etc. sowed new ideas among the owners of these activities. In their turn, wage workers began to fight not only for their political, but also for their working rights. Such a mix of fight, new thoughts and revolutionary development led the situation to the state we see today.
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