The victorious French armies led to the spread of a new type of constitution in the Italian, Dutch, German and Spanish territories and in Austria. Napoleon installed his relatives as rulers of the conquered countries and in 1804 proclaimed himself emperor, but the state idea that the revolution had created clearly deviated from the state systems of the autocracy. The basis of the new conception of the state was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, which stated that all human beings were born equal and free.
Poor Irish children during the potato plague in the latter half of the 1840s; illustration from Illustrated London News, 1847. The Irish potato plague created famine and poverty and led to massive emigration; in the period 1845-1911, the population fell from 8.3 mill. to 4.4 million. From the mid-19th century to the early 1930s, more than 50 million emigrated. Europeans to other continents, especially the United States.
The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars marked a European system collapse. Not only did the common set of values crumble, which, despite regular conflicts, had bound the Europe of the princely states together in a kind of community of destiny, leaving the continent deeply divided between conservative and liberal-revolutionary forces. The principle of balance of power, which had provided security stability since 1648, also temporarily collapsed under the boot-trampling of the Napoleonic masses.
The Congress of Vienna 1814-1815 provided a temporary restoration of the old world order, and the congressional system functioned largely satisfactorily, until the Crimean War of 1853-1856 temporarily put Russia out of play. However, the system was constantly under pressure from two sides: first, the growing antagonism between, on the one hand, the three conservative Central and Eastern European powers, Prussia, Austria and Russia, and, on the other, the liberal Western European powers, France and Great Britain.. Secondly, the various national movements which, with increasing strength, asserted themselves as a political factor.
Nationalism in continuation of the revolution
When the princes of the grace of God no longer held the states together, the national community was sought as a substitute. Spanish nationalism and German popular opposition to the traditional forms of government grew, and both Holland, Switzerland and the Italian states rebelled against their princes. After Napoleon’s defeat in Russia in 1812, French – dominated Europe fell apart. The European empires tried to restore the order of the past, the so-called Restoration, but it lasted only thirty years in France and even less in Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and the Kingdom of Naples., which all adopted liberal democratic constitutions after popular uprising. The old world order definitely collapsed in 1848; in Paris the Second Republic was proclaimed, and revolutions took place in Sicily, in Naples, Rome, Turin, Florence, Budapest, Prague, Milan, Venice, Berlin, Vienna, and in Poland. In Denmark, a liberal constitution was introduced in 1849, the June Constitution, while the year before in Sweden there had been unrest that led to liberal reforms. In 1849, Austria defeated the rebels in northern Italy, which, however, could not stop efforts to unite Italy. Louis Napoléon, nephew of Napoleon I, was elected president of France in 1848 and after a coup in 1851 was proclaimed emperor as Napoleon III.France supported the Italians, who in 1861 were finally united into one nation partly after referendums in northern Italy and partly after the Italian army commander Giuseppe Garibaldi’s conquest of southern Italy.
Based on data by COUNTRYAAH, the peoples of European countries formed nation-states; Greece and Serbia had gained autonomy in the Ottoman Empire in 1830, and in 1863 Greece became a monarchy. The political debate in the mid-19th century took place in a myriad of newspapers, which spread in line with literacy. With the new democratic constitutions, school laws were passed, and the new conscripted armies brought the common man into contact with national politics. Britain’s power at sea consolidated the nation’s position as Europe’s leading imperialist power.
Europe’s population became far more mobile than before. Falling mortality meant a general population growth, and the migration from country to city picked up speed. The old social order had probably been socially immobile, but not socially irresponsible; in the capitalist industrial society, the worker was free to live as he wished or die of starvation. Working conditions in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy, for example, involved a 15-hour working day. Socialism gained modern significance around 1830, and national parliaments were troubled by the savagery that life in the underclass fostered. Social reforms and schools had aimed at securing societies against political unrest and disintegration into violence, disease and crime, but revolution and rebellion were not the only resort chosen by Europe’s poor: in the period 1815-1914 at least 50 million left. people Europe in favor of the United States.
Germany’s unification in Bismarck’s German Empire in 1871 decisively shifted Europe’s security policy geography and also pointed to the major conflicts of the first half of the 20th century. The functioning of the congressional system had been conditioned by a strongly divided Germany that could act as a buffer zone between the great powers. That premise, however, disappeared with the formation of the Prussian-dominated Little German Empire, which overshadowed the other German superpower, Austria, and soon showed ambitions to become a world power on a par with Britain. This made the security policy situation explosive.
It is debatable whether it was nationalism that carried Bismarck’s Germany forward, or whether the empire was rather a product of Prussia’s old ambition to outcompete Austria as the leading German power. There are many indications that this was especially the last, and that the real politician Bismarck merely masterfully managed to exploit the national movements in his own game of power. The national movements thus saw from the beginning a Greater Germany as the ideal, i.e. a Germany which included the German parts of Austria. In addition, an actual German mass nationalism can only be ascertained after the formation of the empire and with this as a framework. It is a given, however, that both the German Reich formation and the conservative-romantic German Völkische nationalism came to play a decisive role in Europe’s recent history.
France’s defeat in the Franco-German War 1870-1871 led to the fall and revolution of Napoleon III in Paris, where the Paris Commune in 1871 as the first workers’ uprising for a short time managed to seize power. The defeated Paris Commune gained a unique status in European consciousness after the formation of the Third Republic the same year.
The last decades of the 19th century were marked by change. The agricultural crisis and the growing industry in the cities meant a violent migration of people from country to city and from Europe’s poorest regions, especially to the United States. The expansion of the industry was based partly on the growing workforce, partly on technological development and the growing world trade. The intensified competition between the industrial nations in conjunction with the flourishing mass nationalism, which often degenerated into social Darwinism between the nations (only the strongest and most prosperous nations deserved to survive) triggered at the same time a fierce struggle for colonial acquisition. The inauguration of the Suez Canalby 1869 had suddenly halved the transport route between Europe and Asia, which seriously brought Southeast Asia into the sphere of interest of the European navies. After 1880, the great race for Africa began, and by 1914, the colossal continent with Ethiopia and Liberia as the only exceptions was completely divided between the European colonial powers. The result of the imperialist race was that Europe with its empires in 1914 covered more than 80 percent of the planet’s total land mass.
Confidence in economic, scientific and political progress had never been greater, and the political struggle revolved around the sharing of goods such as wealth, education and health. The workers organized themselves, and socialism and anarchism became politically significant concepts. The distance between rich and poor was still enormous, but political participation spread to all walks of life and women also began to demand political and economic rights.
World War 1
The period 1871-1914 was marked by rivalry between the European states. Nationalism was central to European politics, and it was thus a national struggle, namely the Serbs’ Yugoslav unification project, that was behind the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Frans Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. The assassination became the immediate cause of the outbreak of war. The central powers consisted of Austria-Hungary in alliance with Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria, and since Germany’s traditional enemy was France, the counterpart was the Entente Powers, the Franco-Russian-British alliance along with Serbia, Belgium, Italy, Romania and Portugal.
The conscripted armies numbered millions of young men, and the use of war gas and new effective weapons such as machine guns and rapid-fire artillery resulted in casualties that reached hundreds of thousands on certain days. The end of the war came only after the United States joined the Entente Powers. The central powers had to surrender in 1918, and with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany was ordered to pay large war damages while the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved. In Russia, the war had been a major contributor to the Revolution of 1917, and the following year the Bolsheviks introduced a socialist dictatorship into the country.
Despite US President Woodrow Wilson’s grandiose plan for a reorganization of Europe according to the principle of national self – determination, monitored by the League of Nations, the security situation in Europe remained unclear and social problems were largely the same as before the war. The huge casualties meant that even the smallest communities in the warring countries had felt the war, and a very significant number of war invalids had followed.
The values of the old society had collapsed, and the crisis of values extended into all aspects of life. Social conditions, formerly classified as private, were up for public discussion: the relationship between men and women, between adults and children, between nationality and political affiliation, between sexuality and health. In the colonies, a Western-educated opposition became increasingly dissatisfied with political conditions and racism.
Europe no longer expected the world to be stable. The future was seen as a challenge or even as a threat. In Italy, Benito Mussolini was elected head of state in 1922 on an ultranationalist program, fascism, in which unions and opposition parties were made illegal, and in the young democracy of the Weimar Republic of Germany, Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor in 1933 on a National Socialist program. against socialists and Jews. Both countries made economic and social progress in a short time, but the price was the abolition of democratic rights. In Spain, the Socialist People’s Front won the 1936 parliamentary elections, after which General Francisco Franco and the right-wing nationalist Spanish Falangetook power in a coup. The defenders of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 were supported by volunteers from all over Europe, but while Hitler supported Franco, the Spanish Socialists did not get the support of Josef Stalin. After Falangen’s victory, four decades of fascist dictatorship in Spain followed.
The ideas of the German National Romanticism from the beginning of the 19th century about natural peoples lived on strongly in the later Völkische national movement and also became governing for the actions of Hitler’s Germany. In 1935 the German-speaking Saarland was annexed, in 1938 Austria and the German-speaking Czech Sudetenland were incorporated. In 1939, the rest of Czechoslovakia was annexed, and at the same time Hitler and Stalin entered into a non-aggression pact, after which Germany invaded Poland. It prompted France and Britain to declare war on Germany.
World War II
Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and most of France came under German rule in the first years of the war, while Russia annexed the East Pole and the Baltic states, which had become independent after World War I. Germany’s campaign against the Soviet Union of 1941 failed, at the same time as Japan invaded the United States; it eventually made a German defeat inevitable, and it came in May 1945. Soviet troops occupied Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, while American, British, and French troops occupied West Germany, Austria, and Italy. Yugoslavia had liberated itself mainly by its own forces and after the war chose an independent socialist course.
The post-war period
World War II had profound economic and political consequences for Europe. Inconsistent interests led to the Cold War with arms race between the superpowers Soviet Union and the United States and an Iron Curtain that divided the continent. Western Europe came under American economic and political influence partly through the defense alliance NATO, formed in 1949 due to fears of the Soviet Union, partly through Marshall Aid, which was administered through the OEEC (since the OECD). The occupied West Germany quickly joined both the reconstruction and the defense alliance. The Eastern European countries became politically, economically and militarily subordinate to the Soviet Union, and in 1955 the Warsaw Pact was formed as a counterpart to NATO.
The economic build-up in Western Europe brought prosperity. France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries took the initiative in 1951 to create the European Coal and Steel Community, which formed the basis for the establishment of the EC in 1957 and rested on the idea that a close economic community could prevent pre-war nationalist competition. Of particular importance was the co-operation between West Germany and France, whose mutual wars had marked recent European history.
Western Europe also experienced an education explosion, which for the first time involved women in large numbers. The student uprisings of 1968-1970 put socialism, local democracy, sexual freedom and creativity on the agenda. The “new left” of the West, however, tended to overhear the complaints that came from the peoples under “real-existing socialism.”
An enlargement of the EC proved problematic when France blocked Britain’s accession in 1967; in 1973, however, enlargement succeeded in the accession of Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark, while Norway voted no. The economic crisis, which began with the first oil crisis in 1973, put a damper on economic growth in Western Europe. Most governments had to contend with major unemployment problems and a growing nationalist and socialist critique.
The Eastern European countries seceded from the Soviet Union in 1989, as economic and political problems became unmanageable, and in 1991 the Soviet Union finally disintegrated. East and West Germany were reunited in 1990 in a new enlarged Federal Republic, which, despite major spending on reconstruction in the East, was given the role of Europe’s economic dynamo. Franco-German cooperation was reaffirmed, and in 1992 a new European treaty, the Maastricht Treaty, on the European Union, the EU, was signed. However, it met with opposition, especially in Denmark and France. However, when Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria had negotiated to join the Union from 1995, the Norwegian people again voted against accession.
At the same time, the former socialist countries pressed for membership in both the EU and NATO. In Eastern and Central Europe, the countries found themselves in a situation reminiscent of the time before 1914, when security policy was considered a national matter. In Yugoslavia, Slovenia first seceded from Serbian dominance (in 1990), then Croatia and Macedonia, and finally Bosnia-Herzegovina, leading to war and genocide, and similar developments were feared in other Eastern European countries. However, NATO membership for Russia’s neighbors was a sensitive issue, as Russia’s membership expansion to the east could be seen as facing Russia.
The end of the Cold War removed the threat of a nuclear war between the superpowers, but at the same time allowed for a series of national and ethnic conflicts that had been suppressed in the 50 years that had passed since World War II. Many features of contemporary Europe thus suggest that the age of nationalism is not yet over. On the other hand, integration efforts in the form of the EU and other supranational organizations also show that the pursuit of unity that left its mark on Europe in the Middle Ages and in the 18th century is still a living and active factor in European culture. Which of the two main tendencies will ultimately prevail must remain uncertain. Many Europeans place their trust in unity efforts, not least because of the security situation following the fall of the Iron Curtain.