European History/The rise of the nation state
Why did the idea of legitimating states by reference to national identity become so widespread in the modern period?
While there were instances of nation states before the 19th century, the nation state per se is a 19th century phenomenon. Following the American and the French Revolutions, the Greek revolution of 1821 stands as the first truly national revolution of the modern era. It broke itself from the Ottoman empire, creating a state where one language, Greek, was taught, and one identity, Hellenic in ethnicity and Greek Orthodox in religion, was promoted. The Serbs, the Bulgarians, the Italians and the Germans followed in the later part of the century, creating solid national identities, promoting the national language as the accepted means of communication, unifying the country in the economic sphere in terms of tariffs, measuring units, rail and land road communications, army and navy. The national identity, a product of a few intellectuals in the beginning, helped create the national state and the national state in turn helped solidify the national identity. It succeed in this task by reinforcing the sanctity of the national realm and its land, using and forcing the usage of the common language, and using compulsory public education to hammer the sense of national identity, to produce ethnic homogeneity and a sense of national uniqueness.