Posts Tagged ‘nationalism


European History Pt. 48 — Beginning of the “isms”

Last time I looked at the industrial revolution. After 1830, Britain was the factory for all of Europe. Up  until 1901, the share of GDP grew enormously in trade, transport, and manufacture. It was not until 1870 that Britain even faced any competition from other countries in the area of manufacturing.

This time I want to look at the social changes that accompanied the first half of the 19th century.


It was around the beginning of the 19th century that various political and social doctrine began to to flourish. “Liberalism” first appeared in 1819, “socialism” in 1832, “feminism,” “humanitarianism” and “communism” date from the 1840s. This was indicative of a philosophical revolution that was trying to catch up with the massive changes that took place in the industrial and french revolutions. These concepts were not new. People talked about living together before “socialism” was coined, but the systematization of these doctrines along with their explicit recognition was a powerful change in the intellectual landscape.


The book talks briefly about romanticism around this time. People like Wordsworth and Lord Byron in England and Victor Hugo in France epitomized an artistic movement that reveled in the unknown and the unknowable in addition to rejecting classical forms and systems. Architecture underwent a gothic revival. For instance, the British parliament building that still stands is influenced by gothic architecture.

Feminism, Radicalism, Nationalism

At this point, the book goes through several “isms” in turn, in kind of a disorganized way. I don’t want to just recite them, but these isms were particular important.

Radicalism primarily came about in Britain as the heirs of people like Thomas Paine. The problem with earlier radicals is that the wars with France discredited such positions. People were nationalistic and banded together to war against France. Anyone who stood in the way o that was not listened to.  However, the radicals came back at this time and advocated for democracy (which not all liberals at the time were in favor). Around this were the beginnings of UTOPIAN movements, like Robert Owen (ideal paternalistic capitalism) and Charles Fourier (localism) and Count De St. Simone (socialism, but they called their doctrine, St. Simoneanism). In France, radicalism came from those who thought the French revolution was not complete.

Feminism gained at this time. The feminism on offer was primarily egalitarian feminism, which was influenced by liberalism and argued that men and women were morally equal and so deserving of the same rights. Harriet Taylor was a force for these ideas and she worked with John Stuart Mill over many years developing a defense of feminist principles and applications. Feminism, understood as a quest for voting rights, proceeded more quickly in the U.S. and Britain.

Next time Ill pick up by looking at nationalism.