Was nationalism the most important force of change
The nationalism within its boundary also changed its governmental system into Dual Monarchy and within Austria, more racial groups demanded independence. This exhausted Austria. In addition, the Ottoman Empire, facing the Greek independence and the demand for autonomy from the Balkan people, became powerless to remain its supremacy in Eastern Europe. Moreover, nationalism directly broke down the Vienna Settlement as well as the Congress system too. The decisions of remaining Italian and German territories disunited to achieve power balance in 1815 were refuted by the successful unification in central Europe.
The German Confederation and the Italian small kingdoms became part of history. In the past, the old power of Austria, Russia and Prussia preferred congress to solve any international of regional problems. However, nation states newly formed by the principle of nationalism seemed not follow this rule, the new statesmen preferred real politics. and secret direct negotiation.. No more series of Congress were held. The spirit of the Concert of Europe was in the line of decline. What is more, what nationalism brought to Europe were not just nation states and balance, but also the hostility among the European states and wars.
For instance, Austria turned its focus on the Balkans after it had lost the dominance in Central Europe. Its desire to maximize its own national interest came into conflict with the Russian one in Balkan Peninsula. This threatened the stability in there. Take the Franco-Prussian relation as another example, in 1870, Germany defeated France and even proclaimed the birth of the empire in the Palace of Versailles. The German nationalism reached its highest point but this antagonized the French. After the defeat, France treated Germany as its only enemy and dreamed of revenge for the humiliation.
Both of them desired promoting national interest and there nationalism came into crash inevitably. As a result, more rivalry began took place and Europe was likely under instability. Others may argue that nationalism did not deserve the name of the most important change of force and other forces like liberalism were more important than just nationalism alone. I would like to justify the fact in the following paragraphs,. Some pointed out that liberalism was more influential in changing the status quo in Europe, as there were more liberal movements during 19th century.
However this is not valid. Undoubtedly liberalism was the main spirit during the revolutions in 1820s, 1830 and in 1848, but these revolutions were almost ended in failure. Revolts in Portugal, Naples, Italian Peninsula and German Confederation hardly brought any constitutional changes for long. In contrast, they were quickly suppressed by the existing order led by Metternich externally as well as by their monarchs internally. The class struggle between the middle and the lower class, for example, in France, further discouraged the liberal movements.
Thus, little was achieved in terms of quality. Comparing with nationalism, liberalism suffered more failure. Nationalism was a feeling of love to the motherland, it was far more passionate than liberalism which based on reason. No wonder people in Europe devoted themselves with unquestioning support to build their nation states. But liberalism was difficult to run because of power struggle between the middle class and the workers. They both desired more political rights but they were unwilling to share the power with each other.
France served as a good example. What is more, some may say that nationalism came from liberalism and during the revolutions, liberalism and nationalism spread simultaneously and therefore they shared the same importance. At that time liberal nationalism, which claimed that every race had freedom to form their nation states was popular and the revolutionary parties followed this doctrine. Nevertheless, it was contradictory that each race must come into conflict with other when they expanded their national boundary outward. It was never a kind of equality.
As a result, people began to lost confidence on liberalism. Finally nationalist movements like in Germany and in Italy were successful under the progress of the governments and people favoured more in nationalism. Liberalism therefore was then less influential than nationalism. To conclude, nationalism was the most important force of change in Europe up to 1870. It altered the appearance of Europe and brought new order to the continent. Other forces like liberalism was vital but they were not the most important one in terms of significance.