How did nationalism develop during the French Revolution?
Of a handful of modern ideologies, one of the most monumental events in human history, the French Revolution, generated one: nationalism. Nationalism is the devotion to the interest or culture of a particular nation. Although in its extreme form it could go as far as some radical measures such as ethnic cleansing, the patriotic feeling that nationalism brings about has been a major momentum that binds a nation together.
Prior the the French Revolution, France was divided by various regions and religions. The only thing that could possibly link the nation together was the belief that everyone was supposed to serve the king. However, by the end of the eighteenth century, there appeared to be a sense of membership among the French people. Some of them no longer saw themselves as "subject" to serve the king, instead, they began seeing themselves as "citizens" who serve their own nation proudly. This sense of belonging can be said to have been the instigation of nationalism.
In the prerevolutionary society, the old regime, everyone belonged to one of three estates. The third estate represented everyone except for the aristocracy and the clergy, namely the middle class and the peasants. On June 17th, 1789, the third estate declared itself "National Assembly" where it was insisted that deputies of all three orders should sit as a single house and vote as individuals instead of one vote per house. The unicameral self-entitled National Assembly was meant to remove the division and marginalization of the govenment caused by the separation of constituency and to represent the nation as a whole.
As the state became more secular, there was a large demand for uncompromising loyalty to the state in order to keep the spirit of the revolution alive.After the capture of Bastille, national guard was established in Paris and other cities to keep order. For insignia of the guard the commander combined the colors of the city of Paris, red and blue, with the white of the house of Bourbon. The French tricolor thus became the emblem of the Revolution, which is also the contemporary French national flag.
On August 26, 1789, the National Assembly issued "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen", one of the most significant, if not the most significant, documentations ever. It was meant to affirm the principles of the new state and applied to all human being, it recognized equal individual citizenship, and collective sovereignty of the people.
The French nationalism was at its height when the French army was at war with other European states in the 1790s. It was a national army, representing a people in arms, commanded by officers who had been promoted rapidly on grounds of merit, and composed of troops who felt themselves to be citizens fighting for their own cause. Its intense political-mindedness made it the more formidable and contrasted strongly with the indifference of the opposing troops, some of whom are in fact serfs and none of whom had any sense of membership in their own political systems.
There are two kinds of nationalisms, ethnic and civic. Ethnic nationalism is based on ethnicity whereas civic is based on a common belief and ideas. The nationalism that was generated and developed in France during the French Revolution was civic. Over the centuries, the monarchies have achieved political unity of France. In the wake of the Enlightenment, people began to take pride in serving the country rather than the king believed in equality. The Rights Of Man, published in 1791 to defend the French Revolution had become a motto or watchword for potentially revolutionary ideas well before 1789. "Man" in this sense was meant to apply abstractly, regardless of nationality, race, or sex. French ideas were are at the forefront of Europe and the world at large, at some point, the French Revolution almost seemed inevitable as more and more French people began to believe in nationalism.