Nationalism, Legislature, Militarism, And Colonial Rule At The Turn Of The Century In Europe Essay, Research Paper
In an era of vast change, the idea of nationalism sprung up among most nations across Europe. Nationalism, the belief in and respect for national traditions and causes, was the major factor in the chang of legislature, militarism, and colonial rule. During the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the world powers of Great Britain and France battled over influence in it’s colonies through both humane and extreme measures, encountered the positive and negative aspects of nationalism, and became greatly persuaded by the establishment of democratic governments.
The rise of middle class democracy in both England and France was sponsored by the growing concern for nationalism. Although both nations were basic parliamentary democracies, Britain had been the model for parliamentary government for centuries. Only in the latter half of the 19th century did the “head of state” or monarch begin to loose it’s influence. Industrialization had profound effects since the large landowners no longer controlled Parliament. The government was formed by the party which won the most seats through election to the House of Commons (Howarth). At the start of the 20th Century, the House was dominated by two distinctive parties: the Liberals and the Conservatives. A third party was forming beneath the basic themes of the other parties which became known as the Labour Party. This party became fairly popular as it called for the rights of the workers, but was a minority in the House. However, the cabinet held the whip along with the very influential prime minister. The prime minister handled most business of the state and was required to command the majority in the House of Commons for fear of resignation. In contrast to the French Parliamentary system, Britain had no written constitution. Suffrage extended to give most adult males the right to vote. The Liberal party gained the confidence of the people and soon demanded more rights and a more humane system of democracy. As the influence of the House of Lords went down, the middle class rose to power in the House of Commons. In contrast, religion still played a major role in France’s parliamentary government (Howarth14). France’s political parties were either clerical or anti-clerical. In contrast to Britain, more people made their living off the land in France than in England. The interests of large numbers of conservative peasants were highly different to those of radical industrial workers who demanded change. However, militarism did change the ideologies of French politics. The National Assembly approved a republican constitution that gave all males the right to vote (Howarth14). With this event, the outcome of politics rested upon the people and not just a select group of voting individuals. Here, the seeds of nationalism were born. The injustice done to the Jewish Captain Dreyfus sent the republicans on a vigorous assault upon political reaction and the church. Later elections at the turn of the century became liberal landslides (Hughes17). The Liberal majority in 1905 brought to a climax the legislative warfare against the Church’s involvement in education and politics by severing all connections between the Catholic Church and state. France had proved itself to be a deeply democratic nation with male suffrage and the rise of the Liberal party with it’s new-age ideas.
Nationalism soon took it’s hold on the people of both Britain and France. Unlike Eastern European nations, England and France, at least in the nations and not the empire, were uniform. Although freedom of religion was beheld in both nations, roman catholicism prevailed in France while the Anglican church was still prominent in Britain. This was one of many similarities of each nation’s people that spurned nationalism. In Britain, nationalism was heightened as the naval race against Germany grew larger and larger. As the middle class became the more prominent member in society, nationalism grew. In France, nationalism was not spurned until the rise of the Liberal Party in 1905. Suddenly the people were running their own country, not watching blatantly as a small group of aristocrats did. However, nationalism did contradict the principle that “all men are created equal” as we will see in both Britain and France’s imperialistic nature.
Imperialism became much of a game to the Europeans in the late 19th century. The fight for colonies was tough, and being just a little late could leave an imperialistic nation slim pickings. Lucky for them, France and Britain began taking colonies very early in the game. Britain took much of south and eastern Africa while France took the north and west. At one point, “the sun never set upon the British Empire.” India was another holding that became excessively prosperous to the British. However, problems formed in both empires. Growing passions of nationalism within the colonies prompted them to the verge of revolution as greatly encouraged sentiments of racial superiority on the Europeans’ part heightened. The oppressed were becoming smarter and demanded to be treated like a true member of the domineering empire. Britain established self-governing dominions in Canada and Australia where the whites outnumbered the natives. Problems still occurred in South Africa when Britain tried to establish a white majority government. The French offered complete assimilation and didn’t extend a great color line as did the British (Hughes). They offered their conquered people’s a chance to become “equal.” Chosen people would receive a full French education and essentially become French in speech and sentiment. Here, nationalism changed from sentiment toward birth nation to that of the domineering nation. Imperialism began to emit a type of double standard where the aggressive nation dictated manhood suffrage and democracy at home but offered a completely different and hypocritical approach to it’s colonies. Underneath the quest for colonies spurned militarism. The military ethic of conquering went against the virtues of nationality. Through racial superiority as their guide, the imperialists attacked the culture and way of life of the people they conquered. This was not only hypocritical in nationalism, but also in democracy. The conquered were not given the right to vote or anything hardly at all but the military presence of some of the largest empires in the world. On the home front, militarism and war became popular (Howarth). It became a grand idea to fight a war for one’s own country. There was a sort of romantic fervor within it. The rise of the middle class nationalists were highly responsible for this movement in both England and France. Overall, nationalism on the home front prompted the expanse of imperialism as it benefited both the political structure and economy of the possessor.
At the turn into the 20th century, Europe was at crossroads it had never been before. Old traditions were being challenged by the tumult of radical ideologies, industrialization, and colonization- areas it had never fully experienced before. Nationalism was the culprit behind these vast altercations as is spurned the want for colonies, civil rights, and a place in government. Britain and France, two distinctive parliamentary democracies, came into the new century with the burden of imperialism, a shift in legislative power, and the rise of militarism in a Europe ready to burst at it’s seams.