Origins of Nationalism in France

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In terms of the origins of national identity in France it is agreed that the French Revolution was the single most important period of radical social and political upheaval and was henceforth a catalyst for the spread of nationalism in France aswell as throughout the rest of Europe. Despite the fact the French Revolution occurred over 200 years ago, in present day France, there remain various symbols of the revolution which have become deeply embedded in the national identity of the country. One of which being the tricolore flag which was created to oppose the flag of the King, which itself was a symbol of the Ancient Regime. Pre-revolutionary France was characterised by a social structure based on class and tradition, but more importantly, it was based on inequalities which were sanctioned by the force of law. The Ancient regime in France had been based on the division of society into legal categories. Membership of the first and second estates (clergy and nobility) conferred legal and social entitlements that were not available to the Third Estate. The idea of Absolutism meant that the Monarchy was entitled to expect the obedience of the people on the grounds that the King was the agent of God’s purpose. The French Revolution was the turning point in modern history. It was the first manifestation of nationalism in the Western world; it abolished the ancient regime and thus the absolute monarchy, giving birth to the French nation in a sudden burst of enthusiasm. In 1790 all the communities of France erected an altar to the fatherland with the inscription: "The citizen is born, lives and dies for the fatherland." The revolution began a new age in French political life, the old political order in France was destroyed and replaced by a new order that was based on individual rights, representative institutions and loyalty to the nation as opposed to the Monarch. This new era fostered new political ideals summarised in the French...
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