Laurence Cole, ed. Different Paths to the Nation: Regional and National Identities in Central Europe and Italy, 1830-70. Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. xvi + 240 pp. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-230-00036-0.
Reviewed by Jonathan Sperber (Department of History, University of Missouri)
Published on H-German (June, 2007)
History from the Tyrol Out
The rise of nationalism and its corrosive effect on the European state system, particularly on its multinational empires, is a classic theme of nineteenth-century history. For historians working in a nationalist framework, as was usually the case through the mid-twentieth century, discussion of this theme characterized it as an inevitable process, the working out, one might say, on the political stage of long-existing, natural realities. More recent scholarship has begun to chip away at these assumptions. Historians have investigated the constructed nature of nations and the development of nationalism as a social movement and a discursive structure. They have also taken seriously alternative forms of group identity and political loyalty to nationalism, as well as alternative forms of political organization to the nation-state. The volume under consideration, a collection of essays stemming from a conference held at the Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico at the University of Trent, takes up this theme in a particular, but very relevant, regional and temporal context.
The essays focus on the southern borderlands of the Habsburg Empire, its southern Alpine and Adriatic provinces, and work outwards from there to some of the other Habsburg crown lands, then to southern Germany and northern Italy. They deal with a period that the editor, quite rightly, sees as a crucial political turning point, from the first serious breach of Restoration political order in 1830 to the formation of German and Italian nation-states and the creation of the dual monarchy some forty years later. Among the issues discussed in the book are the transformation of linguistic and ethnic differences into opposing nationalisms; the influence of old-regime political boundaries and events of the age of the French Revolution on the creation of nationalist movements; the relationship between religious, provincial, and national loyalties; and the cognitive and symbolic structures of nationalist movements. The essays, as is usually the case in volumes of this nature, are of mixed quality, but overall they bring forth interesting insights and pose questions that provoke further thought on the nature and development of nationalism in nineteenth-century Europe. We can consider them in several groups, each of which highlights a somewhat different theme.
A number of the issues in the volume are posed by its very first essay, Domonique Reill's piece on regionalism and nationalism in Dalmatia between 1830 and 1860. Sort of a colonial region of the old-regime Venetian Republic, the area went through varying periods of Austrian and French rule in the revolutionary era before ending up a Habsburg province. In this economically backward area, most of whose inhabitants were illiterate peasants who spoke Slavic dialects, the small, Italian-speaking bourgeois elite formed the political class. Most members of this class spoke out in favor of regionalism, demanding a provincial autonomy suited to Dalmatia's character as a unique meeting ground of different, but related nationalities. In the end, this regionalist orientation would give way to competing Croatian and Italian nationalisms, in which, however, the legacy of the bi-national provincialist period was preserved. The area's first Croatian nationalists, for instance, asserted that Dalmatia would be to Croatian nationalism what Tuscany was to the Risorgimento.
Here we can see a version of Miroslav Hroch's theory of the development of nationalism from the initial stage in which elites with ethnographic interests and a regionalist or provincialist orientation investigated language and customs of socially and linguistically alien lower class groups, to the second stage, in which leaders arose from within the ranks of this lower-class group to articulate a nationalist political program, alienating the elites who initiated the process. Claire Nolte's essay on the Sokol, or Czech gymnastics associations, taken from her excellent book on the topic, might seem to represent the second step in Hroch's progression of stages, from a German-speaking elite, interested in Czech customs and Bohemian provincial autonomy, to a Czech-speaking, anti-German nationalist leadership. The only problem here is that the founders and leaders of the Prague Sokol, the vanguard of Czech nationalism, were two members of the city's German bourgeoisie, Friedrich Tirsch and Heinrich Fügner. The latter could not even speak Czech.
Anna Millo's essay on Trieste from 1830-70 and Eva Cecchinato's on Venice and the Veneto, from 1848-66, take up another aspect of Reill's essay, the influence of old-regime boundaries on later nationalist movements. Millo argues that Trieste's generally favorable experiences as an old-regime Habsburg possession, and its dynamic economic growth in the nineteenth century, as the empire's seaport, meant that Habsburg loyalism was the major political sentiment among the city's predominantly Italian-speaking population. Nationalist ideas and nationalist politics, both for the majority Italians and the city's Slovene minority, were weaker and developed later. Cecchinato sees the opposite development in Venice. Memories of the city's long history as an independent republic and its nineteenth-century economic decline combined to make Italian nationalism the dominant political trend. Habsburg loyalism, although existing, was much weaker and less influential.
The comparison of the two cities is an enlightening one, and the significance of the two factors considered in the essays is quite convincing, but together they do not tell the whole story, as can be seen from a fact the authors mention but do not analyze. Lombardy was an old-regime Habsburg possession and its capital city of Milan a site of vigorous commercial and industrial growth in the nineteenth century, but both Milan and Lombardy were strongholds of Italian nationalism. Regrettably, the volume has no essay on Lombardy that might have investigated the reason and nature of the development of Italian nationalism.
The editor's essay on the Tyrol, co-authored with Hans Heiss, and Ewald Heihl's contribution on Salzburg and its region both deal with the question of possible identities and political loyalties among the monarchy's Alpine population. Two quite different variants of German national identity developed in the Tyrol and Salzburg. Both had a strongly regionalist character, defending provincial autonomy against centralizing governmental initiatives from Vienna, but one identified being German with support for political liberalism and hostility toward or at least skepticism of the dynasty, while the other was characterized by pronounced dynastic loyalties and an equally pronounced attachment to the Catholic Church. Both versions of German national identity existed in both areas, but the liberal version was stronger in Salzburg, an independent prince-bishopric in the old regime, only finally coming under Habsburg rule in 1815, while the latter dominated in the Tyrol, a long-term Habsburg possession. A major feature of the Tyroleans' German identity was their long struggle to preserve their old-regime provincial prerogative, the "unity of faith," that is, the prohibition on Jewish or Protestant settlement in the Tyrol.
The southern Tyrol, the Trentino, had a large Italian-speaking population, but Cole and Heiss suggest that German-speaking Tyroleans' developing antagonism toward them reflected not so much a clash of nationalities as opposition to the anti-Habsburg stance of Italian nationalists. The authors also argue that Italian nationalism was weaker in the Trentino than in other Habsburg border provinces, and that the formation of the kingdom of Italy had an ambivalent political effect on the Italians of the southern Tyrol, one that largely depended on their religious viewpoint. Anti-clerical Italian speakers were increasingly oriented toward the Italian nation-state and developed secessionist sympathies, while devout Catholics rejected the anti-clerical, anti-papal Italian kingdom and developed new forms of religiously based Habsburg loyalism, a stance, the authors assert, that was on the upswing with the growing democratization of politics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This attitude brings up the question of the position of religion in the nineteenth-century rise of nationalism. Max Vögler's essay on the reaction to the first Vatican Council in Upper Austria deals with this issue, although his assertion that Ultramontanism was a form of nationalism does not seem very helpful. It might be more fruitful to understand the rise of Ultramontanism as a parallel and competing development to nineteenth-century nationalism, rather than as a "traditionalist" form of identity, confronting and ultimately being displaced by a "modernizing" nationalism. The political effects of Ultramontanism, in the Habsburg monarchy and elsewhere, first appeared mixed with regional and dynastic loyalties. It would be interesting to observe the way these loyalties became disentangled, the extent to which a specifically and intransigently Catholic identity could serve as a basis for a political movement on its own. Cole and Heiss observe just such a trend in the Tyrol during Austria's liberal era in the late 1860s and 1870s, when the area's dominant Catholic conservatives were temporarily alienated from a dynasty that was tolerating the anti-clerical policies of the liberal government.
Finally, three essays concern public opinion in southern Germany, regarding the movement toward German national unity and the struggle between Prussia and Austria for hegemony in central Europe: Nikolaus Buschmann writing on southwest Germany and German-speaking Austria; Erwin Fink on Baden, Bavaria and Saxony; and Mark Cornwall on the Sudeten Germans. These were all areas where the großdeutsch version of German nationalism was dominant, where visions of a united Germany were pro-Habsburg and anti-Prussian. The war of 1866 was a searing defeat for this vision, but all authors argue that the Franco-Prussian War, just a few years later, quickly repaired the damage. The common struggle against the national enemy eased the incorporation of the anti-Prussian inhabitants of the south German states into a kleindeutsch German Empire, reconciling dynastic and national loyalties, most effectively in Saxony, rather less so in Bavaria. Interestingly, the war of 1870-71 also led to a reconciliation of dynastic loyalty and nationalism among the Germans of the Habsburg Empire. German-language public opinion there defined its post-1870 political task as the preservation of the dominant position of the Germans and the overall German character of the Austrian half of the dual monarchy. Just as in Saxony, dynastic loyalties and German nationalism could be combined, but by linking dynastic loyalties to a nationalist program, this viewpoint implicitly pre-supposed the future option of demanding the adherence of the German-speaking regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the German Empire should the Habsburg realm prove to be less than accommodating to the German nationalist program.
The concluding essay, by Alberto Banti, goes off in a completely different direction from the rest of the book. Banti argues for the existence of discursive "deep structures" common to all nineteenth-century European nationalisms. He identifies two such structures. One is the nation understood as a family, constituted by kinship, with elements such as fatherlands, fraternal feelings among fellow nationals, and the nation as a body of common descent. The other is the idea of the nation as constituted by martyrdom and self-sacrifice, tied both to secularized versions of Christian ideals and to the nation as community of gendered male warriors. These interesting ideas suffer from two problems characteristic of such postmodern, deconstructive approaches. First is the extent to which Banti's understanding of nationalism seems based on the standard picture of it, which the other essays in the book are trying to call into question, or at least to refine. The refusal of the Tyroleans to let fellow Germans of a different religion into their province does not seem compatible with the understanding of the nation as a family--except, perhaps, a dysfunctional one. Second, Banti's deep structures lack historical specificity, since the nation was hardly the only form of political identity articulated in terms of kinship and sacrifice. One need only think of medieval and old-regime patriarchal conceptions of monarchy or of the ancient Roman motto, "dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori."
Leaving out this anomalous concluding essay, we could say that the book is, above all, an investigation of the formation of national identities and the rise of nationalism in areas combining two distinct characteristics: they were border regions, but also frontiers of sovereign states that were not, before 1789, or even in the nineteenth century, relatively homogeneous political units. One might call this the Tyrolean or Dalmatian case of the rise of nationalism and the essays in this book do a good job of considering it.
If there one issue should have been taken up somewhat more explicitly, it would be the way that nationalism and state-building changed the nature of borders. Old-regime borders designated the boundaries between monarchical possessions, and were also not quite so distinct, because overlapping jurisdictions emerging from the corporate structures of old-regime governance blurred these boundaries--perhaps particularly in the area under consideration in this book, where relatively unified old-regime monarchies of the sort developing in France, Great Britain, Spain, or Sweden, did not exist. By contrast, nineteenth-century borders were considerably sharper, between governments that claimed absolute sovereignty over their territory. At the same time, nationalist movements were redefining borders as ethnic and linguistic boundaries between different nations, with claims to national self-determination and corresponding sovereignty over the national territory. In that double transformation of borders lies some of the road map to the different paths to the nation investigated in this interesting and engaging book.
. Miroslav Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe: A Comparative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller European Nations, tr. Ben Fowkes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985).
. Claire Nolte, The Sokol in the Czech Lands to 1914: Training for the Nation (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2002).
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Jonathan Sperber. Review of Cole, Laurence, ed., Different Paths to the Nation: Regional and National Identities in Central Europe and Italy, 1830-70.
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