How did Napoleon's armies spread nationalism?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nationalism was a key tenet of the French Revolution, which began in 1789. It was used as a justification for the execution of the French king; he had betrayed the French Revolution and the French people by seeking foreign help. The French Revolution undermined the monarchy, the clergy, and the aristocracy and replaced it with ideals of liberty, fraternity, and nationalism. Many liberals in areas under French control sought to emulate the French in this respect.

Nationalism and other tenets of the French Revolution were spread throughout Europe by Napoleon's armies. As the French occupied new regions, established authorities were overthrown. In this way, French armies helped create conditions that led to German and Italian unification half a century later. Napoleon was not deliberately trying to create new nation states, though. His goal was to maintain his own power in Europe.

As French armies occupied nations, their peoples rose up in rebellion. For example, the Spanish and Portuguese would not accept French domination, so they revolted in 1808. Prussia encouraged its own nationalism as it sought to challenge Napoleon in 1813.

After Napoleon was finally beaten in 1815, nationalism was suppressed by reactionary governments throughout Europe. Nationalism was, understandably, viewed as a threat to established monarchies—such as that of Austria. But nationalism could not be completely extinguished. The Revolutions of 1830 were partly motivated by the nationalism that Napoleon had unleashed on the rest of Europe.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial