The nationalism that developed in reaction to Napoleon usually took one of two tracks. In some cases, it was a conservative nationalism, a desire to go back to the old ways that prevailed before Napoleon took over and started making reforms. On the other hand, there was also a liberal nationalism. Napoleon brought European countries some of the fruits of the French Revolution, but some people wanted more: they wanted true self-government. Amazingly, opposite approaches, liberal and conservative, worked in tandem to oppose Napoleon's rule.

Romanticism and German Nationalism both have their roots in the work of J.G. Herder. In 1784, he published Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, in which he suggested that every nation was different, and that every nation had its own particular specialty (of "genius"). By this logic, Germany should not copy France, but pursue its own particular national genius and identity. Herder invoked the Volk (the people) as the root of the true national culture and special nature (Volksgeist) which every nation should try to express. Herder did not mean his ideas to apply only to Germany, but to all nations. Herder's ideas were radically at odds with ideas of Enlightenment philosophes like Voltaire who believed that all nations would follow similar paths of progress from barbarity to civilization, though at different rates. Herder's ideology of differences in national Volksgeist from country to country would spread throughout Europe, counter to the French idea that all countries and peoples are basically the same and would benefit by the same kinds of "progress". Ideas such as what constituted "good" art or literature were challenged, because art might not apply to everyone in the same way. By Herder's way of thinking, art was good only inasmuch as it represented a particular Volksgeist. The implication of this way of thinking is that the concept that there were certain good universal laws, a cornerstone of the French Revolution, was challenged in Germany.

Britain was also strongly swept by anti-Napoleonic nationalism. The years of Napoleonic rule were also crucial years in the development of British manufacturing through the Industrial Revolution. British workers were being horribly exploited, working long hours at monotonous and dangerous jobs for little pay. Unemployment was high. A workers' revolt might well have happened if the British people hadn't had Napoleon to rally against. Opposition to Napoleon unified Britain, and may be one factor explaining why workers didn't revolt against the factory system in this still early, fairly oppressive stage of the Industrial Revolution.

Two exceptions to the general rule that French dominance created local nationalism were Italy and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. The Italians, lacking a unified history and broken into several states under Napoleon, never developed a strong anti-Napoleon nationalist movement. The Poles were also quite happy with their new, restored state. Even if it wasn't really independent, at least they had a state, rather than being split up and controlled by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, which was what would likely happen if Napoleon hadn't been supporting the Grand Duchy.

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