DMPQ-. Explain how French revolution played important role in the emergence of “Idea of nation”.

. The first clear expression of nationalism came with the French Revolution in 1789. France, as you would remember, was a full-fledged territorial state in 1789 under the rule of an absolute monarch. The political and constitutional changes that came in the wake of the French Revolution led to the transfer of sovereignty from the monarchy to a body of French citizens. The revolution proclaimed that it was the people who would henceforth constitute the nation and shape its destiny.

From the very beginning, the French revolutionaries introduced various measures and practices that could create a sense of collective identity amongst the French people. The ideas of la patrie (the fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen) emphasised the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution. A new French flag, the tricolour, was chosen to replace the former royal standard. The Estates General was elected by the body of active citizens and renamed the National Assembly. New hymns were composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated, all in the name of the nation. A centralised administrative system was put in place and it formulated uniform laws for all citizens within its territory. Internal customs duties and dues were abolished and a uniform system of weights and measures was adopted. Regional dialects were discouraged and French, as it was spoken and written in Paris, became the common language of the nation.

The revolutionaries further declared that it was the mission and the destiny of the French nation to liberate the peoples of Europe from despotism, in other words to help other peoples of Europe to become nations. When the news of the events in France reached the different cities of Europe, students and other members of educated middle classes began setting up Jacobin clubs. Their activities and campaigns prepared the way for the French armies which moved into Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and much of Italy in the 1790s. With the outbreak of the revolutionary wars, the French armies began to carry the idea of nationalism abroad.

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