The Everyday Nationalism of Workers
A Social History of Modern Belgium
Maarten Van Ginderachter




In September 2007 The Independent asked tongue in cheek: “Is Belgium on the brink of breaking apart, and would it matter if it did?”1 The British newspaper was reacting to the drawn-out institutional crisis the country was experiencing at the time. Belgium even went without a national government for over a year and half because of a political stand-off between Flemish-speakers and French-speakers. These events played to the clichéd image of Belgium as an artificial invention of international diplomacy. Merely held together by the monarchy, the national football team, waffles, chocolate, and beer, Belgium is a supposedly superficial and unnatural juxtaposition of Flanders and Wallonia. This view goes all the way back to the country’s foundation as an independent state in 1830. In his Histoire de la révolution française (1847–1853), the great French historian Jules Michelet wrote that Belgium was “an English invention. There has never been and there will never be a Belgium.”2 Even Leopold von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, the German prince who became the first king of the Belgians, was pessimistic: “Belgium does not have a nationality and given the character of its inhabitants it will never have one.”3 Many contemporaries cast doubt on the viability of the country. Rather than a reflection of the weakness of the young nation-state or the inevitability of ethnolinguistic discord, their nay-saying was a response to the geopolitical uncertainties Belgian independence had created. Because of its central location in Western Europe—the “keystone of the European order” in the words of the French king Louis-Philippe4—the Belgian territory was coveted by France, Britain, Prussia, and the Netherlands. But it was easier to deny the country’s viability than to annex it.

MAP 1   Nineteenth-century Belgium. Adapted from Paul Fredericq, Vlaamsch België sedert 1830, vol. 1 (Ghent: Vuylsteke, 1905), iii.

The image of Belgium as an accident waiting to happen or as a lost cause from the start has been refuted by academic research. Flanders and Wallonia are by no means more natural or more ancient than the so-called artificial Belgian nation-state. The linguistic divide only became a separatist wedge issue after the First World War.5 As the paragon of European modernity, nineteenth-century Belgium was even a frontrunner in nation-building. Densely populated and urbanized, covered by a network of busy railroads, canals, and highways, it was the first industrialized country on the continent. Its liberal constitution protected the freedoms of religion, press, and association, and supported a thriving civil society in which conservatives interacted with progressives, Catholics with anticlericals, and Flemish-speakers (“Flemings” from Flanders, the north of Belgium) with French-speakers (“Walloons” from Wallonia and educated Flemings).6 In short, a framework to mass-produce citizens was in place. Some historians have even argued that “the transformation of ‘peasants into Belgians’ [. . .] happened certainly as one of the earliest on the continent.”7 But did it really?

The viability of Belgium and the draw of nationalism in general have been debated from any number of angles, but one has been conspicuously overlooked: the perspective of ordinary people. What if scholars shifted their attention from the explicit purveyors of nationalism in government agencies and bourgeois associations to the audiences they targeted? A different picture would arise. A close examination of the experience of ordinary Belgians disproves both the academic and popular narrative. Belgium’s industrial precociousness did not translate into an early nationalization of its population, but neither were Flemish and Walloon ethnicities more natural categories of belonging.


At the heart of this book lies a simple question: How did ordinary people experience nationhood in everyday life? The role of the masses in the rise of modern nationhood remains one of the great unresolved issues in nationalism research. Historians have generally examined processes of national identification through the lens of elites and institutions, neglecting the perspective of “ordinary men and women.”8 These people have remained elusive to historians for two reasons. Obviously, they have left fewer sources than the higher social classes, but, more crucially, they have been the victim of a scholarly bias. The classic constructivist paradigm in nationalism research, as developed by the likes of Ernest Gellner, Eugen Weber, and Benedict Anderson, views nation-building as the logical outcome of an inescapable modernization process that pounded peasants into Frenchmen, to use Weber’s famed phrase.9 As a result, we still know little, as Eric Hobsbawm once remarked, about how ordinary people experienced nationhood.10

This study aims to fill this gap. It probes the grassroots supporters of the socialist Belgian Workers Party (BWP)11 during the fin de siècle. In this period, between ca. 1880 and the First World War, Belgium and Europe experienced the concurrent rise of nationalism and socialism as mass movements. Drawing on often underexploited source materials from the major urban and working-class centers of Belgium,12 I set out to uncover the everyday nationalism of the rank and file. Per Fox and Miller-Idriss’s definition of everyday nationalism, I “examin[e] the actual practices through which ordinary people engage and enact (and ignore and deflect) nationhood and nationalism in the varied contexts of their everyday lives.”13 In a word, this book seeks to bridge the gap between nationalism studies and social history, linking discourse to daily life and micro-level analysis to macro-level explanation.

At the turn of the nineteenth century the BWP was arguably the strongest socialist party in Europe after the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), both in terms of membership and of representation in legislative bodies.14 Presiding over a parliamentary, nonrevolutionary movement spearheaded by consumer cooperatives, the BWP’s socialism was of the social-democratic, reformist variety. It was focused on reforming society through participation in the political process and elections, not on a violent overthrow of capitalist society. Scholars have interpreted the party’s reformist streak as one of the main causes of its integration into the Belgian nation.15 In the words of the American historian Val R. Lorwin, “the socialists became, for all their lip service to Marxism and internationalism, the most national of Belgian parties.”16 Like other Western European social democrats, the Belgians gradually embraced a so-called oppositional or radical patriotism. This was a supposedly benign working-class form of patriotism as opposed to a malicious bourgeois chauvinism.17

The international scholarship on the link between socialism and nationalism has focused on party institutions, cadres, and leaders.18 In-depth studies of the rank and file are scarce.19 For the Belgian case, the grassroots perspective is virtually nonexistent, but this has not stopped several scholars from advancing a range of contradictory and empirically unfounded opinions.20 Most famously, Eric Hobsbawm claimed that by the turn of the nineteenth century the Belgian proletariat in general, and the social-democratic rank and file in particular, saw themselves “primarily” as Belgians. To Hobsbawm they were unaffected by Belgium’s linguistic divide.21 In a similar argument Miroslav Hroch contended that by the First World War the Belgian proletariat was firmly integrated into the Belgian nation.22 My analysis, however, demonstrates that the impact of official, top-down nation-building was very uneven in pre–World War I Belgium. Socialist workers exhibited a low degree of nationalist loyalty across linguistic lines. Many Flemish-speaking BWP supporters felt a weakly developed civic allegiance to Belgium, while they did share a sense of Flemish ethnicity that at times had anti-Belgian undertones. Various French-speaking workers, by contrast, espoused a Latin, exclusively francophone interpretation of Belgian nationhood.


The disparate sense of belonging Flemish- and French-speaking socialist workers felt exposes the limits of the classic constructivist paradigm. It particularly challenges the link Ernest Gellner posited between industrialization and national homogenization (see the last section of Chapter 1).23 Neither were the diverging identification patterns a natural or inevitable reflection of ethnic-linguistic difference. Rather, they resulted from clearly identifiable social and political processes within the specific historic context of the fin de siècle. The new system of plural voting of 1893 and proportional representation of 1899, in particular, induced socialists to interpret democratization trends and divergent electoral outcomes in ethnic terms (see Chapter 2). This finding punctures a central assumption associated with Anthony D. Smith’s ethnosymbolist approach to the study of nationalism,24 namely that ethnic cleavages are the hard core undergirding national conflict. This book shows that nationalism is not a direct translation of ethnic-linguistic difference.

My analysis particularly questions teleological accounts that describe the “awakening” of “oppressed peoples” after the Great War as the structural result of a slow maturation of nineteenth-century ethnic sensibilities. By comparing the Belgian experience to imperial Austria, I argue that the postwar breakthrough of small nations, the so-called Wilsonian moment, was the contingent outcome of a sudden shift. The unprecedented disruption of the First World War transformed ethnicity from a social category among many others to the preeminent basis for collective identification and action. In Rogers Brubaker’s terms, the war turned ethnicity into a definitive marker of “groupness.”25 As such, this book helps explain how Europe’s pre–World War I patchwork of crisscrossing identifications gave way to a twentieth-century landscape dominated by language and ethnicity.

I have not only built on a well-established tradition of regionalism research that nuances the top-down transmission of nationalism, but also on a recent string of pioneering monographs that investigate the construction of nationhood at the local level.26 The work on “national indifference” in East and Central Europe, in particular, has been an important influence.27 This revisionist literature, inspired by Brubaker, has inverted the correlation between the strength of nationalist discourse and its impact in society.28 The intense propaganda of German and Czech nationalists in late imperial Austria, these scholars argue, was more an admission of impotence than an accurate reflection of their success. Ordinary people were not in thrall to nationalism. On the contrary, they were agnostic, ambivalent, or opportunistic vis-à-vis nationalist propaganda.29 In short, they reacted with national indifference.

By extending this innovative approach to Western Europe, this book offers an unexpected bridge between “Eastern” and “Western” studies of European nationalism. At the same time it adds two important new dimensions to the national indifference perspective. First, it moves beyond the materialist interpretation of ordinary people’s daily lives as determined by primary needs.30 At times, the literature on national indifference contains a binary subtext of “the normal dynamics of village life” versus the artificial loyalty of nationhood.31 Undoubtedly, nationalist behavior is a construct that needs to be problematized, but so are the so-called self-evident categories of local, ordinary, or everyday interests. These are constructs in their own right, mediated through different languages of class, nation, religion, gender, and so on, that coalesce in different ways in different situations. The second new dimension this book brings to the literature on national indifference is its sustained focus on sources from, and not merely about, ordinary people. The critical methodological innovation is the use of a database of over twenty-seven thousand so-called propaganda pence. This unique source has never before been used in international research.


Crooked Charles is bonkers, 0.10. Instead of a seat in the town council he’s got a seat reserved in the nuthouse, 0.10.

Friends, what about it? Shall we give that blue dunce who sends his children to the brethren’s school a concert with tin pipes, 0.10.

I am glad to have received The Little Whip, 0.16. I read it at the gents’, 0.10. And then I sent it to its destination, 0.10.32

These are the wry, humorous words socialist workers from Ghent leveled against the establishment and their ideological opponents more than a hundred years ago. “Crooked Charles” (Kromme Karel) was Charles de Hemptinne, the Catholic owner of one of the largest textile mills in Ghent and—as witnessed by the above quote—the butt of at least one disgruntled worker’s ridicule. The “blue dunce,” an unidentified liberal free-thinking bourgeois, was threatened with a charivari, a performance of rough music, because he sent his children to a Catholic school affiliated with the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity. And finally the Catholic workers’ movement’s journal The Little Whip (Het Zweepken) would go the way of all excreta: down the drain, used as toilet paper.

These curiously direct workers’ voices have been preserved in an exceptional working-class source: the “propaganda pence,” or denier de la propaganda/denier de la lutte in French and strijdpenning in Dutch.33 The name is probably derived from the Saint Peter’s pence, Denier de Saint-Pierre or Peterspfennig, an international Catholic initiative to collect money for the Holy See during the late nineteenth-century Kulturkampf.34

The propaganda pence were basically a subscription list. Supporters gave money to the BWP—see the numbers in Belgian francs at the end of each statement—and at the same time contributed a short written statement in colloquial language, usually no longer than a few short lines. All messages were subsequently published in a dedicated section of the party paper. Because of their succinctness, mundaneness, and expressiveness, the propaganda pence can be usefully compared to today’s tweets. Workers used them to speak their mind and to communicate.

These proletarian tweets are a unique window into workers’ values and loyalties. They offer two important methodological advantages.35 First of all, they help us to overcome methodological nationalism.36 Unlike the sources nationalism scholars typically rely on, the tweets are not skewed toward the institutional and the national(ist). Originating in a milieu outside the government and organized nationalism, they are reflective of daily life and provide a view on unsuspecting or implicit (non-)manifestations of nationhood. Through the tweets we can capture everyday nationalism “in the act” without nationalist militants or middle-class bureaucrats intervening. Second, one of the classic difficulties in analyzing identity discourses is assessing the relative importance of different loyalties vis-à-vis each other. The tweets allow us to draw up an identification matrix. We can classify the different social categories available to workers in their everyday lives and gauge the importance of nationhood and ethnicity in relation to class, religion, nation, gender, etc. In a word, this source brings out the voices of ordinary people.


The first chapter sets the stage with a condensed history of Belgium and its nation-building project in the long nineteenth century. The remainder of the book is divided into two parts that focus on the socialist rank and file during the fin de siècle. Chapters 2 to 6 critically engage with the “resonance” question. Obviously, nationalism was out there in the public arena, enshrined in institutions such as the school, the army, and the monarchy, performed in commemorations and celebrations, and communicated through political discourse and the act of voting. But did it resonate? In what way did socialist workers engage with such classic, institutional vehicles of nation-building as the act of voting, public celebrations, the army, the monarchy, the colony, and the schools?37

Part I opens with a chapter on suffrage rights and political participation. In 1893 plural male suffrage replaced the elitist, tax-based census vote but there was no official agenda ingraining the vote as a patriotic duty. Nevertheless, fighting for their political and social rights within the Belgian arena and shouldering the responsibility for local government gave socialists a taste for oppositional patriotism. They did not experience this civic identification uniformly, however. Due to the diverging electoral outcomes of the plural voting system in the urbanized and industrial parts of the country as opposed to the rural and small-town regions, socialists increasingly interpreted ideological divergences within an ethnic framework of Flemings versus Walloons. The introduction of proportional representation in 1899, though meant to assuage such tensions, in fact aggravated them within the BWP.

The most conspicuous occasion to bring the nation to the public were Independence Day festivities, the subject of Chapter 3. The BWP urged workers to keep their distance to avoid being contaminated with bourgeois chauvinism, but to the despair of the party, its supporters often joined in. Mere exposure to nationalist entertainment did not simply turn workers into Belgians. The actual outcome was dependent on the strength of nationalism in other realms of their public lives. That is why the next chapters turn to three central cogs in the state’s nation-building machinery.

Chapter 4 examines why the Belgian army did not realize its full potential as a nation-builder before the Great War. First and foremost was the obsolete recruitment system. In 1909 Belgium became the last country in Europe to abolish military recruitment through drawing lots and to introduce personal military conscription. Up to that moment public opinion remained firmly opposed to army service and did not view it as a civic duty.

As the cornerstone of bourgeois nationalism, the king was the ultimate icon of the nation. Chapter 5 relates the lengths the royal entourage went to to popularize the king and to propagate Leopold II’s gruesome exploits in the Congo. The court’s propaganda was unable to change the deep-seated enmity toward the person of Leopold II, but it was successful in convincing people that the monarchy was a natural part of public life. Leopold II’s colonial agenda in the Congo was caught up in a similar paradox. While pro-colonial initiatives did not turn socialist workers into eager imperialists, they normalized the idea of European dominance over the purportedly inferior black race.

Public elementary education is the subject of Chapter 6. Teachers and pedagogues often complained in private about the gap between the (successful) theory and the (ineffective) practice of nationalist education. Many pupils left school with blatantly mistaken notions about Belgium and its history. Yet proletarian children reassembled these faulty building blocks into an idiosyncratic working-class form of nationalism.

The second part of the book turns to the workers themselves and to the mundane experiences that make up the nation in everyday life. These chapters are meant as a complement to the mainstream literature, which tends to focus on those moments, organizations, and protagonists that wear their nationalism on their sleeve.

Chapter 7 explores the accidental encounters of the socialist rank and file with the most visible tokens of the nation: the national flag and anthem. A string of incidents in the Walloon mining province of Hainaut in the late 1880s shows that many French-speaking workers vilified the Belgian tricolor and the national anthem as symbols of bourgeois and clerical oppression, but still they identified as ethnic Belgians. By 1905, the party cadres and the rank and file seemed to have come to a grudging acceptance of the flag and the anthem. Yet, in Ghent—the most proletarian city of Belgium and the undisputed spearhead of socialism in Flanders—wariness remained. The flag and the anthem were not only rejected as bourgeois symbols, but also as signifiers of Belgianness.

To examine this further, Chapter 8 turns to Ghent and the unique source of the propaganda pence. An in-depth investigation of these proletarian tweets demonstrates that social categories such as class, profession, and anti-Catholicism were central to the everyday experience of socialist workers. Nation, ethnicity, and language were only marginally present in the propaganda pence, as were some of the supposed core values of socialism, including internationalism and republicanism. This raises the question of whether the low frequency of a particular social category is proof of its limited appeal as a source of identification. Or, conversely, whether that category was so self-evident that it did not have to be made explicit. More crucially for our purposes: Are we dealing with national indifference or rather with a mundane form of nationalism that has retreated into the background—something akin to Michael Billig’s banal nationalism?38 Chapter 9 looks for an answer.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Ghent, like all other major cities in Flanders, had a significant French-speaking community. Scholars have generally assumed that workers were exposed to a daily routine of bilingualism. Surprisingly, though, an analysis of the propaganda pence shows that Ghent workers lived in a practically monolingual environment where Flemish ethnicity, though hardly relevant in everyday contexts, held more potential appeal than Belgian nationhood. The Epilogue, finally, ties in the book’s findings to Belgian and European history at large.


1. The Independent, September 11, 2007.

2. Michelet quoted by Jean Stengers, “La Belgique de 1830, une ‘nationalité de convention’?,” in Histoire et historiens depuis 1830 en Belgique: Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles, no. 1–2, ed. Hervé Hasquin (Brussels: ULB, 1981), 7. All translations from French, Dutch, and German are the author’s.

3. Leopold I quoted in ibid., 9.

4. Louis-Philippe quoted in Hervé Hasquin, Historiographie et politique en Belgique (Brussels/Charleroi: ULB/Institut Jules Destrée, 1996), 33.

5. Els Witte, “1828–1847: De constructie van België,” in Nieuwe geschiedenis van België, vol. 1, 1830–1905, ed. Els Witte et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 2005); Lode Wils, Van Clovis tot Di Rupo: De lange weg van de naties in de Lage Landen (Leuven: Garant, 2005 [1992]). The British historian Martyn Conway dates the roots of Belgium’s existential problems even later, to the institutional crisis created by the Second World War. Martin Conway, The Sorrows of Belgium: Liberation and Political Reconstruction, 1944–1947 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

6. I use the contemporary late nineteenth-century epithet “Flemish”–“Vlaamsch”–“Flamand” to refer to the language spoken in what today is called the “Dutch-speaking” part of Belgium, i.e., Flanders. Flemish dialects are a variation of standard Dutch. Flemish relates to Dutch as American English does to British English.

7. Lode Wils, “De twee Belgische revoluties,” in Nationalisme in België: Identiteiten in beweging 1780–2000, ed. Kas Deprez and Louis Vos (Antwerp: Houtekiet, 1999), 49. See also Witte, “1828–1847,” 194, 98–207; Wils, Van Clovis tot Di Rupo, 46–47; Jean Stengers, Les racines de la Belgique jusqu’à la Révolution de 1830: Histoire du sentiment national en Belgique des origines à 1918 (Brussels: Racine, 2000), 1:27, 171–72; Els Witte, “Inleiding: Natie en democratie, 1890–1921: De probleemstelling,” in Natie en democratie–Nation et démocratie (1890–1921), Acta van het interuniversitair colloquium, Brussel 8–9 Juni 2006, ed. Els Witte, et al. (Brussels: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 2007), 12–14; Remieg Aerts, “Een andere geschiedenis: Een beschouwing over de scheiding van 1830,” in De erfenis van 1830, ed. Peter Rietbergen and Tom Verschaffel (Leuven: Acco, 2006).

8. Defined broadly as those who “are usually not actively or consciously engaged in concerted, organized nation-building strategies.” Marnix Beyen and Maarten Van Ginderachter, “General Introduction: Writing the Mass into a Mass Phenomenon,” in Nationhood from Below: Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Maarten Van Ginderachter and Marnix Beyen (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 10.

9. Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914 (London: Chatto and Windus, 1977); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993 [1983]); Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1994 [1983]).

10. Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 [1990]), 130.

11. Parti ouvrier belge/Belgische Werkliedenpartij.

12. My analysis is based on an in-depth investigation of the socialist movement in Ghent, Brussels, the Pays Noir (Black Country) around Charleroi, the Borinage area to the west of Mons, the Centre region around La Louvière, and to a somewhat lesser extent Liège and Antwerp.

13. Jon E. Fox and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, “Everyday Nationhood,” Ethnicities 8, no. 4 (2008): 537. See also Eleanor Knott, “Everyday Nationalism,” The State of Nationalism, 2016,; Michael Skey and Marco Antonsich, eds., Everyday Nationhood: Theorising Culture, Identity and Belonging after Banal Nationalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). For a critical perspective, see Anthony D. Smith, “The Limits of Everyday Nationhood,” Ethnicities 8, no. 4 (2008).

14. Hendrik Defoort, Werklieden bemint uw profijt! De Belgische sociaaldemocratie in Europa (Leuven: LannooCampus, 2006).

15. Marnix Beyen, “Belgium: A Nation That Failed to Become Ethnic,” in Statehood Before and Beyond Ethnicity: Minor States in Northern and Eastern Europe, ed. Linas Eriksonas and Leos Müller (New York: Lang, 2005), 345–46; Guy Vanschoenbeek, “Socialisten: Gezellen zonder vaderland? De BWP en haar verhouding tot het ‘vaderland België,’Bijdragen tot de eigentijdse geschiedenis/Cahiers d’histoire du temps présent, no. 3 (1997); Patrick Pasture, “Kerk, natie en arbeidersklasse: Een essay over collectieve identificatie, in het bijzonder m.b.t. de (christelijke) arbeidersbeweging in België,” Bijdragen tot de eigentijdse geschiedenis/Cahiers d’histoire du temps présent, no. 6 (1999).

16. Val R. Lorwin, “Linguistic Pluralism and Political Tension in Modern Belgium,” Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire 5, no. 1 (1970): 7. This image remains influential to this day, although my own research has demonstrated the potential divisiveness of issues of ethnicity and language. Maarten Van Ginderachter, Het rode vaderland: De vergeten geschiedenis van de communautaire spanningen in het Belgische socialisme voor WO I (Tielt/Ghent: Lannoo/Amsab, 2005); Maarten Van Ginderachter, “Social-Democracy and National Identity: The Ethnic Rift in the Belgian Workers’ Party (1885–1914),” International Review of Social History 52 (2007): 215–40.

17. Paul Ward, Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism, and the British Left, 1881–1924 (Rochester, NY: Royal Historical Society/Boydell Press, 1998), 4; Stephen Yeo, “Socialism, the State and Some Oppositional Englishness,” in Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880–1920, ed. Robert Colls and Philip Dodd (London: Croom Helm, 1986); Stefan Berger, “British and German Socialists between Class and National Solidarity,” in Nationalism, Labour and Ethnicity 1870–1939, ed. Stefan Berger and Angel Smith (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 41. See also Jean Jaurès’s “patriotisme socialiste.” Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Les socialismes français et allemand et le problème de la guerre, 1870–1914 (Geneva: Studer, 1953), 69–70.

18. See Stefan Berger and Angel Smith, eds., Nationalism, Labour and Ethnicity 1870–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999); Stephen F. Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy, 1883–1917 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005); Dieter Groh and Peter Brandt, Vaterlandslose Gesellen: Sozialdemokratie und Nation 1860–1990 (Munich: Beck, 1992); David Allen Harvey, Constructing Class and Nationality in Alsace, 1830–1945 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2001); Kerstin S. Jobst, Zwischen Nationalismus und Internationalismus: Die polnische und ukrainische Sozialdemokratie in Galizien von 1890 bis 1914. Ein Beitrag zur Nationalitätenfrage im Habsburgerreich (Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 1996); Ward, Red Flag and Union Jack; Robert Stuart, Marxism and National Identity: Socialism, Nationalism, and National Socialism during the French Fin de Siècle (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006); Sabine Rutar, Kultur–Nation–Milieu: Sozialdemokratie in Triest vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg (Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2004); Pieter Van Duin, Central European Crossroads: Social Democracy and National Revolution in Bratislava (Pressburg), 1867–1921 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009).

19. One of the exceptions is Jakub Beneš, Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

20. Jan Craeybeckx, Arbeidersbeweging en Vlaamsgezindheid voor de Eerste Wereldoorlog (Brussels: Koninklijke academie voor wetenschappen letteren en schone kunsten van België, 1978), 48; Hendrik Defoort and Guy Vanschoenbeek, “Socialistische Partij,” in Nieuwe encyclopedie van de Vlaamse beweging, ed. Reginald De Schryver et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 1998), 3:2780; Harry Van Velthoven, De Vlaamse kwestie 1830–1914: Macht en onmacht van de Vlaamsgezinden (Kortrijk: UGA 1982), 109; Patricia Penn Hilden, Women, Work, and Politics: Belgium 1830–1914 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 43, 101, 306; Carl Strikwerda, A House Divided: Catholics, Socialists, and Flemish Nationalists in Nineteenth-Century Belgium (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 53.

21. Eric Hobsbawm, “Working-Class Internationalism,” in Internationalism in the Labour Movement, 1830–1940, ed. Frits Van Holthoon and Marcel Van der Linden (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), 1:9; Eric Hobsbawm, “Afterword: Working Classes and Nations,” in Labor Migration in the Atlantic Economies: The European and North American Working Classes during the Period of Industrialization, ed. Dirk Hoerder (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1985), 436.

22. Miroslav Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in Europe,” in Mapping the Nation, ed. Gopal Balakrishnan (London: Verso, 1996).

23. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism.

24. Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell 1994 [1986]).

25. Rogers Brubaker et al., Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 11.

26. On the relationship of regionalism and nationalism, see Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992); Jean-François Chanet, L’École républicaine et les petites patries (Paris: Aubier, 1996); Anne-Marie Thiesse, Ils apprenaient la France: L’exaltation des régions dans le discours patriotique (Paris: Editions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1997); Stéphane Gerson, The Pride of Place: Local Memories and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003); Celia Applegate, A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Alon Confino, The Nation as a Local Metaphor: Württemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871–1918 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997). On the construction of nationhood at the local level, see Abigail Green, Fatherlands: State-Building and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Keeley Stauter-Halsted, The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848–1914 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); Jeremy King, Budweisers into Czechs and Germans: A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848–1948 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); Pieter M. Judson, Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006); Tara Zahra, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008); James E. Bjork, Neither German nor Pole: Catholicism and National Indifference in a Central European Borderland (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008); Laurence Cole, Military Culture and Popular Patriotism in Late Imperial Austria (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Iryna Vushko, The Politics of Cultural Retreat: Imperial Bureaucracy in Austrian Galicia, 1772–1867 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015); John C. Swanson, Tangible Belonging: Negotiating Germanness in Twentieth-Century Hungary (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 2017).

27. For a more extensive view on this literature, see Maarten Van Ginderachter and Jon Fox, eds., National Indifference and the History of Nationalism in Modern Europe (London: Routledge, 2019).

28. Zahra, Kidnapped Souls; Bjork, Neither German nor Pole; Judson, Guardians of the Nation; King, Budweisers into Czechs and Germans.

29. Compare Reill’s “ambiguous,” “pluralist,” “fearful” nationalists in the mid-nineteenth-century Adriatic: Dominique Kirchner Reill, Nationalists Who Feared the Nation: Adriatic Multi-Nationalism in Habsburg Dalmatia, Trieste, and Venice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012).

30. For a critical view of national indifference, see Laurence Cole, “A proposito di ‘Guardians of the nation’ di Pieter M. Judson: Laurence Cole, ‘Alla ricerca della frontiera linguistica: nazionalismo e identità nazionale nell’Austria imperiale,’Quaderni storici 43, no. 2 (2008); Gerald Stourzh, “The Ethnicizing of Politics and ‘National Indifference’ in Late Imperial Austria,” in Der Umfang der österreichischen Geschichte: Ausgewählte Studien 1990–2010, ed. Gerald Stourzh (Vienna: Böhlau, 2011), 302–6; Beneš, Workers and Nationalism, 13; David Feest, “Spaces of ‘National Indifference’ in Biographic Research on Citizens of the Baltic Republics 1918–1940,” Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 1 (2017); Per Bolin and Christina Douglas, “‘National Indifference’ in the Baltic Territories? A Critical Assessment,” Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 1 (2017); Laurence Cole, “Visions and Revisions of Empire: Reflections on a New History of the Habsburg Monarchy,” Austrian History Yearbook 49 (2018): 272; Maarten Van Ginderachter and Jon Fox, “Introduction,” in Van Ginderachter and Fox, eds., National Indifference and the History of Nationalism in Modern Europe.

31. Judson, Guardians of the Nation, 120 (my italics). See also Rok Stergar, “National Indifference in the Heyday of Nationalist Mobilization? Ljubljana Military Veterans and the Language of Command,” Austrian History Yearbook 43 (April 2012): 48; Roberta Pergher, “Staging the Nation in Fascist Italy’s ‘New Provinces,’Austrian History Yearbook 43, no. April (2012): 98–115.

32. Vooruit, February 14, 1890, pp. 3–4; June 2, 1893, p. 4; May 5, 1899, p. 3.

33. For more information on this source, see Maarten Van Ginderachter, “Jean Prolo, waer bestu bleven? Speuren naar de bronnen van ‘gewone mensen’ in 19de-eeuwse archieven,” in Terug naar de bron(nen): Taal en taalgebruik in de 19de eeuw in Vlaanderen, in Verslagen en mededelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde 114, no. 1, ed. Wim Vandenbussche (Ghent: KANTL, 2004); Bart De Sutter and Maarten Van Ginderachter, “Working Class Voices from the Late Nineteenth Century: Propaganda Pence in a Socialist Paper in Ghent,” History Workshop Journal 69, no. 1 (2010); Bart De Sutter, “Over dompers, mouchards en papen: Constructie van identiteit, via humor; Casus: De Gentse socialistische strijdpenning in Vooruit (1886–1900)” (Master’s thesis, Ghent University, 2008); Bart De Sutter, “Humor ‘from below’ aan het einde van de 19e eeuw: socialisten en ‘strijdpenning’ in ‘Vooruit,’Brood en Rozen, no. 1 (2010); Bart De Sutter, “De Strijdpenning van Vooruit: humor en identiteit bij de socialistische achterban in Gent (1886–1900),” Vlaams marxistisch tijdschrift 45, no. 4 (2012).

34. Christopher M. Clark, “The New Catholicism and the European Culture Wars,” in Culture Wars: Secular–Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Christopher M. Clark and Wolfram Kaiser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 21–22.

35. On the methodological issues relating to everyday nationalism, see Jon Fox and Maarten Van Ginderachter, eds., “Everyday Nationalism’s Evidence Problem,” themed section of Nations and Nationalism 24, issue 3 (2018).

36. Rogers Brubaker, “Ethnicity without Groups,” Archives Européennes de Sociologie 43, no. 2 (2002).

37. Some readers might object that I leave out the church as a classic institution of nation-building. In Chapter 1 I delve into the role of the church, but it moves to the background in the remaining chapters. Because the BWP was an explicit agent of secularization that tried to break the hold of the church on the working classes and because the party’s grassroots supporters were often intensely anticlerical (though not anti-religious), the church, Catholic society, and the Christian working-class movement mainly figure in my narrative as negative sources of identification.

38. Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London: Sage, 1995).