Modern nationalism began in France during the revolutionary decade and was spread by revolutionary and Napoleonic armies to the rest of Europe. Many Europeans adopted this idea because nationalism defended the right of a nation to resist French control. After the fall of Napoleon and the remaking of European boundaries at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, nationalists turned their ire on foreign rulers: the Austrians in Italy, the Russians in Poland, and so on. From Derry (Northern Ireland) to Danang (Vietnam) and from Helsinki to the Cape of Good Hope, this struggle for national liberation became one of the most important themes of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and world politics.

Nationalists hoping for their own nation-state might favor either a monarchy or a republic. Among republicans, they might be either socialists or liberals. The Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini took the left-wing nationalist position; he believed that nationalism should be revolutionary and allied with projects to defend the interests of the poor. Others, such as the "utopian socialist" Charles Fourier, wanted to keep the revolutionary legacy of social reform but limit the violence that was increasingly associated with the "Reign of Terror" of 1793–94. This same violence repelled other generally favorable nineteenth-century commentators such as the philosopher John Stuart Mill and the historian and politician Alexis de Tocqueville, who preferred a more elitist approach to any reform of the structure of government.

Not only did the Revolution spawn many beliefs that further extended its logic, but as Hegel surmised, it also created reactions against it. Even before 1789, the "anti-philosophes" had decried Enlightenment thinking. Burke and others quickly denounced the Revolution itself, particularly the potential for violence. The next two centuries would witness the rise of a powerful and diverse group of detractors. Even Hippolyte Taine, holding a chair in the history of the French Revolution at the Sorbonne and a defender of the legacy of freedom he saw emanating from the Revolution, considered the event as a whole monstrous.

Many French who opposed the French Revolution did so because of their religious beliefs. Although the Revolution had instigated a degree of religious oppression, it also permitted an uneasy truce with the churches. The fundamental secularism of the revolutionary project offended those who preferred that state power be dependent on religious authority. Typical of these critics was Joseph de Maistre, an aristocratic writer and philosopher who condemned the Revolution as fundamentally evil and impious. In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, conservatives also linked the French Revolution to what they saw as the negative aspects of democracy and mass politics. Gustave Le Bon, an influential theorist of "crowd" behavior, warned that the French Revolution epitomized the irrationality, savagery, and violence of the mob. Some conservatives went even further, decrying the universal principles of human rights upon which the Revolution was based. Critics saw danger in these universal appeals, especially as they promised to open first France and then the world to social equality for Jews and for immigrants. The "cosmopolitan" form of thinking, so they alleged, ate away at the fibers knitting together the French people and violated the deep roots of moral strength of France vested in its people. These two commitments—religion and nativism—had separable chronologies, but became increasingly linked as some individuals, such as Charles Maurras, leader of the right-wing organization Action française, insisted that France must become, or return to being, more devout and more nationalistic. For such critics, the legacy of the French Revolution was almost wholly negative.

Socialists and communists had a more positive view of the French Revolution: they considered it an important harbinger of the future. However, they wanted to go beyond its tentative promises of individual rights and legal change within a constitutional order. Socialists and communists believed that the French Revolution had not gone far enough. The founders of communism as an international movement, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, both commented extensively on the French Revolution, hoping to find in those events important lessons for the future course not only of communism but of history itself.

Interest in the French Revolution was especially intense at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. In 1889 France's Third Republic celebrated the centennial of the French Revolution with the building of the Eiffel Tower. Arguments about revolutionary events continued to be heated, especially because had broken out again in France in 1830, 1848, and 1870–71. The latter revolution, associated with the Paris Commune, was especially violent; as many as 20,000 people died in street fighting in 1871 when the new republican government sent its army to disband the revolutionary commune (city government) of Paris. Because of the continuing cycle of revolutions in France and the promise of a worldwide revolution through communism, memories of the original French Revolution of 1789 continued to haunt the writings of important socialists, anarchists, and communist revolutionaries.



























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