The Nationalities of Europe and the Growth of National Ideologies

The Nationalities of Europe and the Growth of National Ideologies

The Nationalities of Europe and the Growth of National Ideologies

The Nationalities of Europe and the Growth of National Ideologies

Excerpt

The question with which this book is concerned attracted little attention in this country until recently. There has been a general tendency, however, to regard nationalism as a kind of political disease which affects foreign nations and certain parts of our own islands--a disease which is due largely to economic causes, and capable of being cured by an improvement in economic conditions.

The events of the last few years have perhaps tended to cast some doubt upon this explanation of national movements and the remedy for them, as stated in this crude form. But on the whole they have probably strengthened the idea that nationalism is a disease. Has it not been responsible for the most brutal regime of which we have any record?

Yet it may be contended that this is a one-sided view. Nationalism is no doubt a vivifying and inspiring force. It makes for national unity and--when it is genuine, and not merely a cloak for political ambitions--it acts as a curb upon the selfish instincts of individuals, and of classes and professions. Its ugly side appears only when it is associated with aggression against neighbouring states, or with the coercion of alien or dissentient elements at home. And such aggression and coercion may of course arise from causes independent of nationalism.

I am not concerned, however, either to defend nationalism or to condemn it. My purpose is to call attention to the need for more knowledge, not only of national movements--their characteristics and causes, and the ideologies associated with them--but also, and more especially, for more knowledge of the nationalities themselves. I believe that the mistakes made by British policy in the past have been due in the main to ignorance of foreign peoples, including the non-British peoples within the empire. This ignorance and the negligence which accompanies it are themselves due in part to the fact that before the days of air warfare we believed our country to be comparatively safe from foreign aggression, but still more to an antiquated and defective system of education.

In democratic times it is essential that a knowledge of foreign peoples, including those of the empire, should be widespread and intimate. A knowledge of the political and economic conditions of the present day is of great value for certain purposes. But if we are to understand the characteristics and feelings, the ideologies, of . . .

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