Instead of labeling, classifying, listing, tallying and condemning, the Romantics were relativist. That is, they looked less for ultimate, absolute truth than did Enlightenment thinkers. Romantics tended to think that everything had its own value, an "inner genius". Even in morality, the Romantics began to question the notion that there even was such a thing as absolute good and evil. Instead, each society was seen to create its own standards of morality. Romanticism also fueled many "isms" with the basic idea that "genius" had the power to change the world. German Romanticism, with its idea of a Volksgeist unique to each nation (derived from Herder's writings), gave an intellectual basis to nationalism.

The movement of Romanticism encompasses several contradictory aspects: several ideas are grouped into the movement, and they do not always fit together. For instance, some Romantics utilized the ideology to argue for the overthrow of old institutions, while others used it to uphold historical institutions, claiming that tradition revealed the "inner genius" of a people. Basically, as long as romantic intellectual passion, not rationalism and strict reason, were the basic underpinning of an idea, than it can be classified as "Romantic."

Interestingly, because of its geographical distribution, some historians argue that Romanticism was the secular continuation of the Protestant Reformation. Romanticism was most prominent in highly Protestant countries like Germany, England, and the United States. France, which had a significant Protestant movement but which remained Catholic-dominated, had something less of a Romantic movement. Other solidly Catholic countries were even less impacted by Romanticism.

Popular pages: Europe (1815-1848)