Nationalism is an idea and way of life that has been in existence since the beginning of many early civilizations. Nationalism is not merely developed over time within cultures of the same historical heritage, but is developed through the will of the people that long for their own nation. The nationalism of Germany in the 1930s and 40s illustrates the similar ideas of both Renan and Kedourie that shows how it was the will of the German people that caused such an extreme form of nationalism to rise. .
As defined in Goff's: The Twentieth Century: A Brief Global History, it is "a learned emotional loyalty that individuals direct toward a group with which they perceive common bonds." Ernest Renan proposed that nationalism is the "nation as a soul, a spiritual principal" composed of past and present. The former being the possession that is common to all in a "rich legacy of remembrances." The latter being the consent and desire to live together with the will to "continue to value the heritage that all hold in common." Nationalism can also be explained according to its origin within a society as Elie Kedourie describes in his essay on Nationalism and Self-Determination. He states that "it developed among young officers and bureaucrats, whose families were sometimes obscure, sometimes eminent, who were educated in Western methods and ideas, often at the expense of the State, and who as a result came to despise their elders, and to hanker for the shining purity of a new order to sweep away the hypocrisy, the corruption, and the decadence which they felt inexorably choking them and their society." In other words, nationalism develops mostly from the initiative of young individuals within the previous and deteriorating system of oppressive government because they long for cleansing change. For example, the development of nationalism in this way occurred in the areas of the .