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What is a Nation - Essay Example

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This essay focuses on history of the Europeans and nationalism, describes the idea of a national sensibility and how people derive their identities. Also attempts to define what a nation is in details, according to famous researchers Hunt and Ernest Renan.

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What is a Nation? In his attempt to define what a nation is, Ernest Renan reflects on the uprisings that occurred during the 1848 revolutions. The initiators of these revolutions were nationalist leaders who could be socialists, liberals, or even conservatives. This is according to Hunt, who also notes that a nation is where all people derive their identities, and is defined by shared cultural traditions, common language and in some cases, religion (656). A nation consists of people with a common past and they have developed a strong relationship that binds them together under a government that they all agree on (Renan 7). People intending to become a nation have to consent to a government that will lead them. This means that they share a common past and historical experience is what brought about the idea of a national sensibility.
In the nineteenth century, Europeans under autocratic regimes used ideologies that united them such as nationalism. According to Hunt, People who believed in nationalism used the notion of consent to start significant political disruptions that troubled the foundations of European monarchies (657). Many of them especially liberals and nationalists wanted independence from the rule of old monarchies and form their own nations. With the ideology of nationalism, they were able to fight for what they wanted and therefore, they got to share a rich history together because of their solidarity towards a common cause. Looking at the reasons for the establishment of some nations, it is clear that religion, race, ethnic group, and geography are all small components of a nation while history is the significant defining feature.
A nation can therefore be defined as one comprising of people who have made a lot of sacrifices and are willing to make more of them in future just to see that they can chose who leads them. For instance, the French united in nationalism as they engaged in their revolutionary and Napoleonic wars (Hunt 656). However, they also inspired nationalism in the people they conquered. Before people could establish a nation, they had to undergo resistance from the monarchies and this led to wars that ended in a lot of bloodshed. Many nationalist leaders lost their lives and this only strengthened the will of the people to unite and fight together to free themselves. This gave the people a history which bound them to one cause of creating their own nation.
As nationalism emerged in the nineteenth century after the French revolution, so did violence and warfare as there was territorial competition among different nationalists (Hunt 656). The creation of some nations such as Germany, Russia and Italy did disturb the power balance that formerly existed. This was accompanied by great deeds of violence from those who resisted the formation of new nations and those that fought for formation of new nations. There was no peace and order in Europe during the revolutions that saw the beginning of nationalism and this led to the Congress of Vienna which sought to establish cooperation among major parties to bring peace (Hunt 662). Despite the fact that nationalism brought about disruptions to peace and order that existed in Europe, it was all for the common good since it is what people wanted. Nations such as Italy were unified through the defeats it suffered while others such as Turkey were destroyed by their victories. Needless to say the disruptions paid off as greater nations were born with the most important factor of all; consent of the people and common history.
Works Cited
Hunt, Lynn. Making of the West, Volume II: Since 1500: Peoples and Cultures, Volume 2. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2012. Print.
Renan, Ernst. “What is a Nation?” Sorbonne. 11 March 1882. Lecture. Read More
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