Scholars date Nationalism back to the middle of the 18th-the beginning of the 19th century, when Europe was in the center of the expanding political turmoil. Since the middle of the 19th century, with the emergence of new liberalist beliefs, Western European states were gradually coming to realize the importance of the term “Nation” in its modern form. While liberalism was placing emphasis on the role of culture and language in the social and economic development of the European states, Western Europe was trying to evaluate the scope of tension and incongruence between the perceived cultural order and the cultural realities within its states.
Liberalism was gradually turning into republicanism, which strove for unification of ethnic and cultural lands and was the necessary prerequisite of national (or nationalist? ) renaissance. Liberalism played an important role in the emergence and development of nationalism in Western Europe; but it was actually republicanism that has become the foundation for the spreading of nationalist moods across the 19th century’s Western Europe. In the 19th century’s Europe, the new liberalism was synonymous to revolution – the revolution that sought to disrupt the stability of monarchic structure and to deny the unquestionable power of church.
“Liberals promoted the idea that government must be limited to specific powers by a written constitution. […] They also wanted representative, or parliamentarian, government; in that sense liberalism became synonymous with republicanism” (Haas 24), but whom do we owe for the emergence of nationalism as such? Do we have the right to assume that liberalism was the historical prerequisite of nationalist moods in Europe? Partially, it was. Liberalism was protecting democratic values, which fit into modern political framework, but which still contradicted the social and political order in the then Europe.
Liberalism was integrally linked to revolution and change; but social and political change was inseparable from the need to change the cultural and national attitudes. However, not liberalism in its pure form, but its modified “republican” version has actually led to the development of overwhelming nationalist trends in Europe. Germany and Italy were the two brightest examples of the way republicanism and cultural change were combined to form modern understanding of nationalism and its gradual transition to chauvinism.