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The Emergence of Liberalism and Nationalism in 19th Century England

Updated on August 3, 2016
herrypaul profile image

herrypaul has a bachelor's degree in English Literature, he likes analyzing economic, political, literature, and religion views.

19th Century England .
19th Century England . | Source

What Happened in England During the 19th century?

Before I answer the question above, I shall talk about liberalism and nationalism in England during 19th century, and (1)what is liberalism? (2)what is nationalism?

Liberalism in England during 19th Century.

Many middle-class men and women in European Countries, especially in England, effectuated specific liberal reforms. And equally important was the achievement of some form of national unity. The history of nineteenth century Europe was to a great extent shaped by interplay of the forces of liberalism and nationalism. They believed that liberalism meant a belief in individualism and the doctrines of the classical economists (McNall Burns, Lerner, and Meacham, 1984:769).

When a riot broke out in England after 1815, because of depression and consequent unemployment, there was general support among the rich, for the repressive measures that were adopted by the British government. The working class has struggled against the adopted measures, till a Reform Bill was passed in 1832. The Reform Bill described a setback for aristocratic power. The changed culture is followed by the change of economy, politics, and law. Aristocracy changes to be a promising trade republic.

A far larger number of underemployed men and women exist, because of population growth and economically. Indeed, economy has influenced cultural transition. Liberal culture is near to liberal economy. Liberal culture understands freedom, not economic opportunities. Economy is a function of time, whereas liberal culture does not understand culture as a function of time.

From the above description it can be understood that liberal culture is culture that appreciates pluralism and denies domination. Men are not just economic human beings, which focus continually on how to live. Liberal culture is culture in which men are not always tradesmen and buyers, but have the right to speak or to reflect. All men have the same right. Since a liberal ideology favors more government policies to promote welfare and regulate business (Keete et al, 1997:158).

Social care in England is still rooted in the 19th century. Photograph: Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL via Getty Images
Social care in England is still rooted in the 19th century. Photograph: Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL via Getty Images | Source

The growth of liberalism occurred partly as a reaction to the conservative policies adopted by frightened governments anxious to restore domestic and international order. Nevertheless, their repressive policies only made liberals more determined than ever to succeed. It is important to note that the liberal middle class was not arguing in favor of reform or the basis of a belief in democracy. The working class continued to make the argument after a Reform Bill was passed in 1832. The French revolution in the late 18th century and the parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832 in England represented a setback for aristocratic power in both countries (McNall Burns, Lerner, and Meacham, 1984:778). Liberalism to them meant: (1) an efficient government prepared to acknowledge the value of commercial and industrial development; (2) a government in which their interest would be protected by their direct representation in the legislature -in all probability, a constitutional monarchy, and most certainty not a democracy; (3) a foreign policy of peace and free trade; and (4) a belief in individualism and the doctrines of the classical economists. The middle classes of France and England reflecting their concerns and interests trigger the emergence of liberalism in England. They have an equally important and often more immediate objective to achieve some form of national unity.

Nationalism in England during 19th Century.

Nationalism reflects liberalism's abhorrence of traditional privilege. Nationalism is developed from romantic notions of historical development and destiny, which are manifested in a variety of ways. One of the ways is an individual work of art -i.e., a work of art can translate into a national symbol. e.g., a painting, a song, a drama, or a novel can embody an idea of the author, or the artist. Detailed information about a work of art is Literature as a Work of Art.

Early day~19th century England.
Early day~19th century England. | Source

Men and women, in nineteenth century, declared freedom in terms of interpreting nature and life as well. In addition to Wilkie Collins, women writers of the nineteenth century such as: Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, George Elliot, were all pioneers of the emancipation of women. Their works concerning the experiences of human individuals transcended national boundaries.

Nationalism, derived from romantic notions of historical development and destiny, manifested itself in a variety of ways. McNall Burns, Lerner, and Meacham emphasize that if the history of nineteenth century Britain and France can be studied against a general background of middle class liberalism, then much of the rest of Europe during the same period must be understood in terms of a more complex combination of the forces of liberalism, nationalism, and nation building. We have defined liberalism and nationalism as a sentiment rooted in broad historical, geographical, linguistics, or cultural circumstances. And this is what happened in England during the 19th century.


Burns, Edward McNall, Robert E. Lerner, and Standish Meacham. 1984. Western Civilizations. Vol. II, tenth edition. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Keete et al. 1997. American Democracy. The Dorsey Press, Homewood Goyso.


Submit a Comment
  • herrypaul profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Indonesia

    Even in Indonesia (my country) , liberalism is unsuitable for the application in Indonesia because it’s not entirely consistent with values Pancasila that has been professed by Indonesian people.

    In the next time, I will write about Pancasila, What is Pancasila?

    It's quite difficult, but I will try!

  • Sue Adams profile image

    Juliette Kando FI Chor 

    4 years ago from Andalusia

    Yes, by all means, we aren't quite there yet. Unfortunately, as you mention, the downside of liberalism is its "economic aspect, in capitalism. An economic system that relies heavily on govt interference and depends upon market mechanisms" that value greed, excess, and waste over and above basic human needs.

  • herrypaul profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Indonesia

    Sue: Thank you for a critical question.

    In general , liberalism wants to create a society that is free , characterized in a freedom , whether it is a freedom of thinking , speech , religious, or a freedom of the press . Liberalism has an impact on political aspects in a democratic system , it is because both base freedom the majority. Although it can not always identify that democracy is certainly liberal .Democracy , until now , is a best political system that is had by human civilization for celebrate diversity of every human being , and celebrate to make generalization about political rights of the community and freedom of speech the people . Liberalism on the other hand also results in the economic aspect, in capitalism. An economic system that lies heavily govt interference and depends upon the market mechanism by values freedom that I mentioned .

  • Sue Adams profile image

    Juliette Kando FI Chor 

    4 years ago from Andalusia

    The Emergence of Liberalism and Nationalism in 19th Century England in part, answers a very important and contemporary question:

    How come certain countries' governments enable their people to enjoy a civilized and peaceful existence while other countries governments are so disorganized and corrupt that the only option for a better life for their people is political or economic mass migration?

    Thank you.

  • herrypaul profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Indonesia

    Thank you...HSchneider.

  • profile image

    Howard Schneider 

    4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

    Awesome Hub, Herrypaul. Excellent analysis of the synergy that took place in England between liberalism and nationalism during the 19th century. It clearly shows how the people of England slowly developed their individual rights and how your society is much more the better for it.


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