2.9 Summary: The Growth of Nationalism During The French Revolution

Should nation be the foundation of identity?

Big Idea:

  • Nationalism is an identity shaped by various factors and shared by a group.

Because you have covered a tremendous amount of material in studying the factors that shaped nationalism in France from 1789 to 1795, consider these major developments below.

  • The monarchy was destroyed.
  • The old social, political, and economic structure from the Ancien Régime was eliminated.
  • Based on Enlightenment ideas, the French developed the concept that the nation-state and the government belong to the people, not a king.
  • A republic was established where leaders were elected.
  • Based on Enlightenment ideas, the French developed the concept that all the citizens of a nation-state are equal—egalitarianism.
  • Nationalism (love of one's country) in France was developed with the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity
  • Ideas about egalitarianism, the nation belonging to the people, and nationalism spread to the people of other European kingdoms.

The most important point of the French Revolution was that it was the first time in Europe that the concept of the modern nation-state (and its representation of the people) was established. No longer would the French people be loyal to a king, the church, or a local nobleman. During the French Revolution, the French people became loyal to the French nation and the ideas of liberty and equality. In the future, French people would get their identity from the nation of France in which they were free and equal, not from an absolute monarch. This new kind of loyalty and identity, the concept of nationalism, was destined to spread throughout Europe.

The Effects of Nationalism From the French Revolution

Execution of Louis XVI–January 21, 1793

Many people from all three estates died during the French Revolution. During the year of The Terror, 1793 to 1794, it is estimated that as many as 40 000 people were killed. Louis XVI and his wife were executed by guillotine for crimes against the state of France. As well, thousands of Frenchmen were killed defending the Revolution against invasion from Austria and Prussia.

Was it worth it? What were the benefits and costs to the the development of nationalism during the French Revolution?

First, let's review the development of nationalism during the French Revolution:

What did people want that created nationalist loyalty? What were the factors that promoted nationalism? What were the methods used to achieve these nationalism goals?
  • Egalitarianism to make all French citizens equal
  • Civil liberty to guarantee French citizens rights and freedom
  • A republic to give French citizens ownership of their own country and a say in its governing
They wanted to be rid of historical inequalities of the Ancien Régime.
  • Economic: the Third Estate paying taxes while the other two estates did not
  • Political: the Third Estate not having a say in government
  • Social: the Third Estate being at the bottom of society with no rights
  • Revolted to destroy the Ancien Régime
  • Executed the king helped bring about a republic in France
  • Fought against invading armies from Austria and Prussia to guarantee the security of France
  • The Terror destroyed perceived enemies of the revolution.

Now, examine the following chart to understand both the positive and negative effects of nationalism during the French Revolution.

Positive Effects of Nationalism from the French Revolution Negative Effects of Nationalism from the French Revolution
  • It promoted a sense of identity within the nation-state of France.
  • It united the French people within the nation-state of France.
  • It promoted pride in the nation-state of France
  • It promoted equality among citizens in the nation-state of France.
  • It created lasting national symbols.
  • It led to conflict with other countries, namely Austria and Prussia.
  • Extreme nationalism led to violence and murder.
  • It infringed on the rights of others.
    • Many were put in jail if they disagreed with the Revolution.
    • The First Estate lost traditional privileges.
    • The Second Estate lost traditional privilege, and many lost their homes, land, and lives
    • Louis XVI and wife were executed while their son died in prisons
    • Thousands of people were killed in war and in The Terror.

So, was the nationalism developed during the French Revolution worth it? Many French citizens today would perhaps say yes. The modern nation-state of France is an independent, powerful country with democracy, equality, and civil liberties. However, there may be French citizens today who feel modern France is a not a country of equality.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 52 to 54. These pages will further your understanding equality in modern France.

Take notes using the 2.9 Notebook Organizer (Word, PDF, Google Doc). Refer to the How to Take Notes tutorial if needed. When you are done, return here to continue.