Nationalism was a driving, moving spirit in the nineteenth-century Germany of Friedrich Schleiermacher. Jerry F. Dawson, through his thoughtful and well-wrought study of Friedrich Schleiermacher, provides an insight into contemporary nationalistic movements and the people who have a part in them. Schleiermacher, a prominent theologian and educator, was also a leading contributor to the tide of nationalism which swept Germany during the Napoleonic era. Dawson does not present Schleiermacher as an archetype for nationalists, but rather as an example of one man who was willing to sacrifice everything for the good of the nation.
Examining the influence of Pietism, rationalism, and romanticism on Schleiermacher, the author explains the origins of his subject's nationalistic activities and traces the evolution of his patriotic point of view. Dawson depicts the development of Schleiermacher's patriotism from Prussian particularism to German nationalism—an allegiance to an idealized Germany unified in religion, language, folkways. He describes the diverse approaches utilized by Schleiermacher to achieve a patriotic awakening among his countrymen: "…he preached nationalistic sermons; he delivered scholarly lectures; he repeatedly risked his life on dangerous missions which would help free Germany from France; he used his journalistic talents to try to stimulate the national consciousness of the German people; and he even served in the government of Prussia in an attempt to reconstruct the educational system so that nationalism might be advanced."