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Effects of Nationalism

Based on an assessment of the case studies, determine whether the impact of nationalist pursuits, on balance, has been positive or negative.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students learn about the effects of nationalism by deciding whether the overall result of nationalist pursuits examined in various case studies has been positive or negative.

Explore the effects of nationalism
Invite students to suggest possible outcomes of strong nationalist feelings; e.g., sense of belonging, collective purpose, cultural and linguistic pride, aggression, fear of strangers, conflict. As a class, sort this list into positive and negative outcomes:

  • positive outcomes—promotes a sense of identity, unites people, promotes pride
  • negative outcomes—leads to conflict with others, infringes on rights of others, creates xenophobia—the fear that someone will take them over.

Ask students to indicate how these outcomes are expressed in society; e.g., singing the national anthem, celebrating an Olympic medal, anti-American sentiment, racist comments.

Introduce case studies
Assign each small group a different case study from the list below.

Possible case studies (20-1)

Possible case studies (20-2)

  • French Revolution and Napoleonic era
  • Canadian nationalism
  • Québécois nationalism
  • American nationalism
  • First Nations and Métis nationalism
  • Inuit perspectives

  • French Revolution
  • Canadian nationalism
  • Québécois nationalism
  • First Nations and Métis nationalism
  • Inuit perspectives


Other contemporary case studies might include the following:

  • Tamils in Sri Lanka
  • Tibetan independence
  • Northern Ireland independence.

Assemble relevant information
Direct students to answer the following questions:

  • What are the key elements or features of the nationalist vision?
  • Why was there a desire for increased nationalism?
  • How have the people attempted to assert their nationalist vision?
  • Who has been affected by the increased nationalism and in what ways (positively and negatively)?

Provide the necessary background by directing students to resources, such as textbooks, Web sites and individuals to be interviewed. To meet diverse learning needs, you may want to prepare briefing sheets. To extend the learning, consider asking students to consult more than one source and to undertake additional independent research.

To structure and assess this activity, you may want to adapt one of the charts and rubric in Collecting Information (Support Material) as illustrated below.

Sample Case Study: Québécois Nationalism

Elements of nationalist vision (What?)

Reasons for increased nationalism (Why?)

Efforts to assert nationalist vision (How?)



recognition as a distinct society

overcome historical inequalities

control over core affairs

linguistic and cultural survival

greater international role

civil disobedience (Front de libération du Québec [FLQ])

referenda on independence

proposed constitutional amendments

French language and education laws


Positive effects

Negative effects


national pride

cultural revival

economic slowdown

some alienation from rest of Canada

Québec Anglophones



Immigrant groups within Québec



Aboriginal groups within Québec



Francophone groups outside of Québec



Other groups outside of Québec



Present case study analyses
Invite each group to present its assigned case study to the class through a mini-presentation that may incorporate visual representations; e.g., computer presentation, images. While students are presenting their case studies, instruct other members of the class to record information on the positive and negative effects of nationalist pursuits on the various groups involved in each case study.

To structure and assess this activity, you may want to adapt one of the charts found in Positive and Negative Factors (Support Material).

Assess the impact of nationalism
Once all case studies have been presented, invite students to consider the relative benefits or downsides of nationalist pursuits. Ask students to reach an overall conclusion about the positive or negative impact of nationalist pursuits. In assessing the impact, encourage students to consider a range of factors such as:

  • respect for basic human rights; e.g., security of person, equality, freedom of expression
  • economic prosperity
  • personal and cultural fulfilment
  • political effectiveness.

Remind students to consider the implications for various groups who may have been affected and to consider the degree to which each is affected (minimally or a lot) and also the number of people affected (limited number or most of the population).

To structure and assess this activity, you may want to adapt one of the charts found in Rating Options (Support Material).

Use a U-shaped discussion to debate the merits of nationalism
Invite students to participate in a U-shaped discussion on the question "Nationalism: A Positive or Negative Force?". Arrange for students to align themselves along a continuum depending on their overall assessment of the merits/costs of nationalism. Students who conclude that nationalism is a very positive force should locate themselves at one end of the U, and those who judge nationalism to be a very destructive force should locate at the other end of the U. Students with more mixed conclusions should locate themselves in the appropriate spot along the continuum. When discussing the issue, remind students to draw on the evidence from the case studies. Encourage students to be fair-minded in assessing the evidence and respectful of each other's position. Encourage students to remain open to changing their opinion if the evidence and arguments warrant a change.

For instructions on structuring this activity and rubrics for assessment, see U-shaped Discussion (Support Material).

Last updated: May 30, 2008 | (Revision History)
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