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Big Era Seven: Landscape Unit 7.6

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New Identities: Nationalism and Religion
1850 - 1914 CE

Why This Unit?

Throughout modern history, nationalism and religion have played crucial roles in both uniting and dividing people. They form part of the identities of most people in the world, creating communities from similar and different backgrounds bound by common values and aspirations. The new ideology of nationalism emerged out of the era of the Atlantic revolutions in the late eighteenth century. It continued to grow and spread in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as the convergence of such forces as technology, liberalism, and imperialism combined to create important changes in the way people saw themselves, the world, and their place in it. As nationalistic movements spread from Western Europe to the Americas, Africa, and Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century, people began forming new allegiances to a defined nation, and along with those new allegiances, new identities.

Although there was a rise in secular culture during this period, people also continued to define themselves through religion. Religious identities sometimes clashed with nationalistic identities, while in other instances they spurred nationalistic movements. The focus of this unit is on the complex relationship between nationalism and religion from 1850-1914. By studying these two great forces, students will be able to understand the tensions and boundaries that existed on the eve of World War I and the conflicts and changes that have continued through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

This unit falls at the end of Big Era Seven and is therefore designed to build upon students’ previous knowledge of the era, including migration, colonialism, imperialism, revolutions, and liberal reforms in the nineteenth century. The unit starts with students forming the concept of nationalism as a class. By looking at specific examples of nationalism in the nineteenth century, students will work with classmates to develop critical attributes and a working definition of the concept, which they will use to analyze other examples throughout the unit.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1.) Define the concept of nationalism by analyzing examples of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century nationalism in the Balkan peninsula and Egypt.

2.) Analyze relationships between nationalism, religion, and imperialism.

3.) Assess the importance of nationalism as a source of tension and conflict in the Ottoman empire.

4.) Analyze social and political changes related to nationalism and religion in Japan and Egypt.

5.) Describe reactions to Western expansion, focusing on the roles of nationalism and religion.

Time and Materials

These four lessons will take four to six 45-minute class periods to complete. The only required materials are the Student Handouts and world history textbooks.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Unit objectives


Time and materials




The historical context


This unit in the Big Era time line


Lesson 1: Forming the Concept of Nationalism

Lesson 2: New Identities: The Development of  Nationalism in India and the Ottoman Empire (1850-1914)
Lesson 3: Nationalism, Imperialism, and Religion
Lesson 4: Struggles to Retain Old Identities
This unit and the Three Essential Questions
This unit and the Seven Key Themes
This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking
Correlations to National and State Standards
Conceptual links to other lessons

Complete Teaching Unit in PDF format

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