Coverage and Structure of the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe


“Nations” and “Cultural Communities”

At the core of nationalism stands the Nation. The problem is that this core concept is notoriously difficult to define. What is more, nationalism itself, as an ideology, nominalistically loads the dice: one can “defining the nation into existence” and by using the word categorically postulate its objective and permanent existence a priori.
As a result, it is difficult for a historical meta-discourse to find a neutral term with which to categorize the population aggregates which in the course of the Romantic century came to think of themselves as nations.
A good start is to follow Walker Connor and to see nations as self-defining, self-distinguishing groups, and to trace the process of self-definition or self-articulation historically. Even so, to call those groups “nations” over a long historical period is anachronistic and finalistic, lends verbal fixity to what in reality was debatable and changeable, tends to block from our view the fluidity of the self-definitions that were competing at any given the time.
ERNiE has therefore decided to avoid the words “nation” and “nationality” as categories and to use the more neutral term “Cultural Community” instead. This serves to emphasize the fact that culture was the binding factor for the communities involved (as opposed to class, religion or otherwise), but that a self-articulating “cultivation of culture” and ensuing national consciousness-raising was as yet open-ended, flexibly silhouetted against variable Others, and that the cultural familiarities and unfamiliarities might be aligned in different possible national, sub-national or regional aggregations (Macedonian/Bulgarian, South Slavic; Belgian, Flemish, Netherlandic; Baltic German, German, Estonian/Latvian).

What, then, are the Cultural Communities of Europe, and how many of them are there?
Given the fluid demarcations of the self-distinctions debated in the course of the century, the  number is not neatly quantifiable. ERNiE has opted for a phenomenological approach and has taken note of any groups which in the course of the century articulated a cultural self-awareness as being distinct from others, and drew demands for a degree of autonomy from that self-awareness.

1: State-framed Cultural Communities

This was foregroundedly the case in Europe’s “old states” (institutionally predating the French Revolution), and

  • those subaltern cultural communities which developed a national movement that led political independence and sovereignty, from Iceland to Azerbaijan and from Finland to Malta, or
  • at least a formally recognized subsidiary autonomy (Faroe Islands, Wales, Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders).
  • Certain strong regionalisms are included in that array (Breton, Frisian, Occitan, Sorbian) even though they never achieved formal autonomy or sovereign independence.
  • Certain states that did not embody a specific Cultural Community, or combined a plurality of these, but undertook a state-focused Cultivation of Culture, have been tagged separately: Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland.

2: Macronationalisms

In addition ERNiE has taken note of macronationalistic movements aiming to unite kindred Communities. While the political aspirations of such macronational movements were never actually realized (except, briefly and anomalously, for the legacy of pan-Germanism during the Third Reich), their effect was to offer a larger, transnational sounding-board for each of the participating communities.

The macronational movements that are represented in ERNiE are:

    Greater Netherlandism

3: Others

  1. Some territorially indistinct categories were important enough, and specifically focused culturally, to be specifically noted:
      Jewish emancipatory nationalism
      Ultramontanism (as a Catholic-ecclesiastical "hostile imitation" of nationalism centered on Papal Rome)
  2. Certain localities, regionalisms or particularisms that within the 19th-century context are anomalous or less salient have been referred to ad-hoc under other rubrics. These are:
      Andorra > Romance (Minor language communities)
      Bosniak > Slavic (Minor language communities)
      Cornish > Celtic (Minor language communities)
      Corsica > Romance (Minor language communities)
      Cyprus > Greek or Turkish
      Gypsies” (see under Roma/Sinti)
      Hutsuls > Slavic (Minor language communities)
      Kashubians > Slavic (Minor language communities)
      Lappish” (see under Saami)
      Limburgish > Germanic (Minor language communities)
      Manx > Celtic (Minor language communities)
      Montenegrin > Serbian
      Plattdeutsch > Germanic (Minor language communities)
      Provençal > Occitan/Provençal
      Rhaeto-Romansh > Romance (Minor language communities)
      Roma/Sinti (“Gypsies”) > Transnational / trans-European
      Roussillon > Romance (Minor language communities)
      Ruthenian > Ukrainian
      Rusyns > Slavic (Minor language communities)
      Saami (”Lapps”) > Transnational / trans-European
      San Marino > Romance (Minor language communities)
      Sinti (“Gypsies”) see under Roma/Sinti
      Swiss (Rhaeto-Romansh) > Romance (Minor language communities)
      Valencia > Romance (Minor language communities) and Catalan