King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
From Empire to Nationhood


India 1907India 1907The emergence of distinct national identities mirrored the rise of imperialism - neither was mutually exclusive.

The French and American Revolutions in the late eighteenth century had boosted the modern ideas of nationhood and self-determination.

National independence became a romantic ideal shown in the Greek struggle to free itself from Ottoman rule in the 1820s, a cause famously adopted by the poet, Lord Byron.

Churchill with tank 1919Churchill with tank 1919Within the British Isles, distinct Scottish, Welsh and Irish identities began to be expressed in literature, art and politics.

Similarly, Simon Bolivar's championing of South American national independence from Spanish rule won worldwide acclaim. In this context and in an address to Congress in 1823, the US President warned against further European involvement in the Americas.

This became known as the 'Monroe Doctrine'.

His speech can equally be seen as evidence of an American tendency towards isolationism and unwillingness to become embroiled in Europe's problems, one that later helped explain initial US reluctance to intervene in the two World Wars.

Bedouin campBedouin campNationalism emerged as a distinct theory and system of belief in the late nineteenth century.

National foundation myths were reinforced by definitions of nationhood in terms of racial or linguistic exclusivity.

Both imperial rivalry and nationalism converged at this time, fuelling mutual suspicion and providing the justification for naval, and other, rearmament - the foundations of World War One.

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