3.8.1 Self-Determination After World War I

Should nations pursue national interest?

Big Ideas:

  • How do national interest, foreign policy, and nationalism affect each other?
  • How are national interests affected by the pursuit of self-interests?
  • What is the impact of the pursuit of national self-determination?
  • How are multiple perspectives related to the pursuit of national interests?

National Interests and the Pursuit of Self-Determination

One of the most important points in Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points plan was to ensure a lasting peace in the world after World War I. This point focused on the notion of self-determination for new nations emerging from the umbrella of the old imperial/colonial system. The point reads as follows.

"A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based on a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty, the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined."

Wilson's main focus was that a nation's people should be allowed to live their own lives. This meant they had the freedom (sovereignty) to determine their own interests, rather than being solely under supervision or control as part of a colony or empire. Wilson believed that in allowing these nations to determine their own institutions, nations could exist in an atmosphere of fairness and justice. Wilson felt nations within nations should be consulted in matters that affected them.

These same principles are being sought by many nations today. Throughout the world, many nations are asking for the right to determine their future. Some nations are seeking the right to form their own nation-state. Other nations are seeking greater power to determine their role within the existing nation-state.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 174 to 177 and 191 to 193. These pages will further your understanding about contemporary examples of the impacts of national self-determination.

Download the 3.8.1 Notebook Organizer (Word, PDF, Google Doc) and take notes about what you have read. When you are done, return here to continue.

The Pursuit of Self-Determination in Canada

Similar to other areas of the world, Canada has several nations who are developing a strong sense of collective identity. This collective identity has caused them to seek greater self-determination within the civic nation of Canada.

Canada is faced with the growing necessity to address the increasing nationalism of Aboriginal, Inuit, Métis, and Francophone Québécois people who are asking for greater self-determination in their own affairs.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 185 to 190. These pages will further your understanding about Canadian examples of the impacts of national self-determination.

Continue to take notes about what you have read using the 3.8.1 Notebook Organizer. As you move to the 3.8.2 Impact of National Interests assignment, ensure you have an understanding of how a group's pursuit of self-determination may have unintended impacts on others.