The French Revolution And The Idea Of The Nation

Rise Of Nationalism In Europe of Class 10

The French Revolution And The Idea Of The Nation

The first clear expression of nationalism came with the French Revolution in 1789. France was a full-fledged territorial state in 1789 under the rule of an absolute monarch. The political and constitutional changes that came in the wake of the French Revolution led to the transfer of sovereignty from the monarchy to a body of French citizens. The revolution proclaimed that it was the people who would henceforth constitute the nation and shape its destiny.

From the very beginning, the French revolutionaries introduced various measures and practices that could create a sense of collective identity amongst the French people. The ideas of la patrie (the fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen) emphasized the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution. A new French flag, the tricolour, was chosen to replace the former royal standard. The Estates General was elected by the body of active citizens and renamed the National Assembly. New hymns were composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated, all in the name of the nation. A centralised administrative system was put in place and it formulated uniform laws for all citizens within its territory. Internal customs duties and dues were abolished and a uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.

Regional dialects were discouraged and French, as it was spoken and written in Paris, became the common language of the nation. The revolutionaries further declared that it was the mission and the destiny of the French nation to liberate the peoples of Europe from despotism, in other words to help other peoples of Europe to become nations.

The French Revolution And The Idea Of The Nation

The cover of a German almanac designed by the journalist Andreas Rebmann in 1798.

The Image of the French Bastille being stormed by the revolutionary crowd has been placed next to a similar fortress meant to represent the bastion of despotic rule in the German province of Kassel.

Accompanying the illustration is the slogan: ‘The people must seize their own freedom!’ Rebmann lived in the city of Mainz and was a member of a German Jacobin group.

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