Cariad at ein Gwlad is the title we use for the text by Richard Price – A Discourse on the Love of our Country – which sparked the pamphleting war during the years following the French Revolution in 1789. The essay became familiar as a result of the radical, liberal arguments expressed in it and the fact that they prompted Edmund Burke to respond with his famous text, Reflections on the Revolution in France. However, Price’s main purpose was to discuss nationalism, and in particular those principles which should be the basis of the modern nation. In that respect the text is a worthy reflection of the age – a period now known as one which was not only vitally important from the point of view of the development of liberalism, conservatism and socialism, but also from the point of view of the idea of the nation itself.

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    Richard Price
  • Indeed, it is possible to interpret the discussion between Price and Burke, and the quite different ideas expressed by them, as an example of the argument about the roots of nations and nationalism. While Burke represented the more historic point of view, which considers the nation as an organic entity which has evolved over time, Price’s ideas are an expression of the modernist interpretation, which establishes a firm connection between the nation and the establishments of state. In the argument between Price and Burke there is also a suggestion of the different forms of nationalism which would later develop during the 19th century, particularly Liberal Nationalism – which reflects a number of the points of views expressed by Price concerning the need for patriotism in order to promote values such as freedom, virtue and citizenship – and Conservative Nationalism – such as tradition, duty and authority. In due course alternative nationalistic forms would also develop – Expansionist Nationalism and Anti-colonial Nationalism – leading to linking nationalism with discussions about the virtues of empire and colonisation. The one offered a basis for justifying the expansionist campaigns of empire forces, while the other was related to the arguments of those who fought back.

    Despite the variety of nationalistic points of view which have developed since the days of the French Revolution, it is possible to recognise some key elements which characterise nationalism of all kinds. Among them is the emphasis on principles such as national sovereignty and self-determination. Another element which deserves the attention of nationalists is the need to support the nation’s traditional culture. However, there is disagreement in some circles over the extent to which cultural characteristics should be emphasised when defining the nation. This leads to a consideration of the popular division between civic nationalism and ethno-cultural nationalism – based on the (problematic) assertion that it is possible to differentiate between different kinds of nationalism based on the emphasis placed on civic factors (such as citizenship) or ethnic factors (such as race and culture).

    When Price discussed his vision for the nation at the end of the 18th century, he did so in the context of Great Britain, and the development of that particular nation. At the time there was no organised nationalistic Welsh movement. However, nationalism has been a prominent feature in Welsh politics over the centuries, be that from the point of view of the British influence on Wales, or as a result of attempts to gain expression to or recognition of Welshness. Turning then to the world-wide level, it can be claimed that nationalism is an integral part of international politics in action today. This stems from the fact that the nation-state continues to be seen as the basic unit for arranging the political geography of the world, and for structuring the connection between different peoples. However, there are important voices who question whether the nation should continue to be such a prominent consideration in future.