Nationalism Webquest Introduction

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Nationalism Webquest


The picture above is titled The Proclamation of the German Empire. After fighting and winning three wars in less than a decade, Prussia had managed to unite the majority of the independent German states and in 1871 proclaimed its king, Wilhelm the First, Emperor of Germany. The scene above is of this proclamation taking place, which happened in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The last war Prussia fought was against France, and proclaiming their empire in the traditional home of France's kings was meant to be a slap in the face to the French people.

But was there more to it than that? France was arguably the birthplace of nationalism in Europe. When not off at war, this had been Napoleon's home. Under his leadership, France had united like no other European country had before. What better place to come to proclaim an empire?

In the later half of the 19th century, the face of Europe changed forever. But before the face of Europe changed, the people in it had changed. People had always thought of themselves as being part of a town, city or area, but all of a sudden, they began to identify themselves as being part of a nation as well. These nationalistic feelings spread all over Europe, but different cultures expressed them differently. In this webquest you will examine how nationalism affected different European nations and their interactions with each other.
The Question

The main question that you are going to answer with this webquest is:

  • What is nationalism and how did it change Europe in the later half of the 19th century?

To help you answer this question you will complete three main tasks:

  1. Read online articles about the rise of nationalism in different European countries

  2. Identify and analyze specific examples of how nationalism can be a positive, uniting influence and a negative, dividing influence.

  3. Create a short presentation for your parents about what nationalism is and how it changed Europe in the 19th century.

The Process

In this webquest you will be working as part of a group. In that group you will be looking over various online sources of information and you will be asked to analyze them from a specific perspective. Because these are real webpages and not resources made just for schools, the reading level on some of them might challenge you. Feel free to use an online dictionary to look up any words you do not understand.

You will begin by reading some background information to set the stage for your investigation into nationalism. Once you have finished reviewing the background information, look over the different roles you can fill within your group. Each group member must choose only one of the individual roles, and each role must be covered within the group. If one of the roles is left out you will not be able to answer the main question fully.

Before you begin your group work and research, you will need some background information. Please read the following two webpages and study the map of Europe in 1815 as well as the map of the Bosporus and Dardanelles passages. These two maps should help you visualize some of the places that are being talked about in these articles.

As you read these pages pay attention to the basic "who, what, when, where, why, how" information.

The Concert of Europe and the Crimean War

The Rise of Nationalism

Map of Europe in 1815

Map of the Bosporus and Dardanelles Passages

Individual Roles

The information you just read should have brought you up to speed on the major events of the first half of the 19th century after Napoleon was exiled in 1815. Now it is time to review the different roles you can fill within your group and decide which one sounds the most interesting to you. After you have reviewed these roles, meet with your group and make sure everyone agrees on which role they will take.

European conservatives in the 19th century were very different from the conservatives in the United States today. The conservative point of view that you will investigate was generally the goals and ideals held by monarchs, high ranking members of government, land owning nobles, and church leaders. They supported the "old order" as it was often called, which meant the governments that were in place before Napoleon began conquering most of Europe. Conservatives believed in the divine right of kings and were in favor of there being a national religion in each country. As you read through the sources for this webquest, answer the following questions to properly investigate the conservative point of view.

  1. Based on what you know about conservatives, find four events in the sources that you think conservatives would have been in favor of. Write a sentence for each event explaining why conservatives would have been in favor of it.

  2. Identify a conservative leader in one of the sources. Tell me why he was conservative and give me at least one example of a conservative action he took or belief he held.

  3. Did conservatives help or hinder unification in Germany, Italy and Austria? Write a few sentences explaining why for each.

  4. How did nationalism affect European conservatives in the later half of the 19th century? Did it help them achieve their goals or did it get in their way? Explain why.

In the 19th century, European liberals, like conservatives, were not very much like liberals in the United States today. The liberal point of view at this period of time was generally held by the middle class, which included business owners, bankers, lawyers, some politicians, and writers. Liberals were generally capitalists and had employees, so they favored laissez-faire (free market) economics because it benefited them the most. Liberals wanted governments to be based on written constitutions and run by elected officials. They also wanted freedom of religion and speech, and equality, at least between the upper class and themselves, but not usually with the working class. Use the questions below to investigate the liberal point of view from this period.

  1. Based on what you know about liberals, find examples of liberalism in Germany, Italy and Austria in the sources provided, at least one per country.

  2. How many liberal leaders can you find in the sources? List them, then choose one and tell me why you think he is liberal.

  3. Did liberals help or hinder unification in Germany, Italy and Austria? Write a few sentences explaining why for each.

  4. How did nationalism affect European liberals in the later half of the 19th century? Did it help them achieve their goals or did it get in their way? Explain why.

A nationalist in this period did not necessarilly feel strongly liberal or conservative. The goal of a nationalist was to unite "his people," those with a common national heritage, and gain independence for them if necessary. Some areas, like the German states, were not under foreign rule, but were not unified, while others, like Greece, were not unified and were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Nationalists certainly had ideas about free market economics, established state churches, and other issues that liberals and conservatives fought over, but their first priority was making a united, free country for their people. Use the following questions to investigate the nationalist point of view in this period.

  1. Find an example of a nationalist movement in Germany, Italy, and Austria. Find at least one example per country and write a sentence telling me what makes it a nationalist movement instead of a liberal or conservative movement.

  2. Find at least two leaders that you think showed signs of nationalism. Give at least one reason for each leader of a national belief they held or a nationalist action they took.

  3. Find an example of nationalism working together with either liberals or conservatives in one of the following countries: Germany, Italy, or Austria.

  4. Look at the map of Europe in 1815, then look at the map of Europe in 1871. Do you think nationalists accomplished what they wanted in the 19th century? What do you think they might have wanted to do, but not been able to?


Here is the list of resources you can investigate to answer your questions. There are also links to maps below the resources that might help you visualize the changes Europe was going through during this period.

German Unification 1
German Unification 2
Italian Unification 1
Italian Unification 2
Italian Unification 3
Maps of Europe:
Group Work

When each of your group members are done with their individual work it is time to reconvene and share what you have learned. Compare your answers about conservative, liberal and nationalist leaders. Come into this conversation with an open mind and see if any of your group members can change your mind on some of your answers. Bear in mind, there is not a strict right or wrong answer on many of these questions, and some of them will depend on how you argue them.

When you are done comparing answers it is time to write your report, and this is done as a group. Here are the steps you must follow:

  1. Answer this question in no more than a paragraph: What is nationalism? I do not want you to look this up in a dictionary. Instead, discuss it with your group members and write down a definition that you all agree on.You do not have to cite examples of nationalism in your definition, but make sure someone who has never heard of it before can understand what you mean.

  2. Look at the three maps in the resources section. Each map represent Europe in a different time period. For each time period, find an example of nationalism uniting people, bringing them together, AND an example of nationalism dividing people or making them fight each other. A new nation being formed that was not on previous maps might be an example of nationalism uniting people, while another nation splitting apart because a group of nationalists inside the country want independence might be an example of nationalism dividing people. Make sure you can tie your examples to the maps.

  3. Once you have your definition and examples of nationalism uniting and dividing people, put them together in a word document. Make sure you have used proper grammar and punctuation. Also, make sure you can still tell which answers go with which map. An easy way to do this would be to have headings that correspond to the maps, then have bullet points under them for each answer, which would look something like this:


  • A feeling of...

Europe in 1815

  • An example of nationalism uniting people in 1815 is...

  • An example of nationalism dividing people in 1815 is...

Europe in 1848

  • An example of nationalism uniting people in 1848 is...

  • An example of nationalism dividing people in 1848 is...

Europe in 1871

  • An example of nationalism uniting people in 1871 is...

  • An example of nationalism dividing people in 1871 is...

4. Once you have done this, make sure everyone's name in the group is on the finished product, and make sure everyone has a copy.
Real World Feedback

Now that you have finished writing your report, you have to go out into the real world and get some feedback. Take this report home and give your parents a short presentation on nationalism. Explain what we did today, tell them the definition of nationalism your group came up with, then take them through the examples of nationalism being a uniting and a dividing influence that your group developed.

Have them write down one thing from your presentation they found interesting, and one thing they would like to know more about. Bring these two observations in with your finished product and turn them both in to me.

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