In 1860 French was still a foreign language to half of all French children. Outside major cities, France was a country of different languages, dialects and diverse currencies. Travel far outside one's own village was rare, and indifference or hostility to the French state common. From the French Revolution and throughout the 19th century, French rulers expressed the imperative to "form French citizens". Following the unification of Italy (1860), a process led by a Northern elite which then ruled the country, Massimo d'Azeglio (one of the founders of unified Italy) famously remarked: "Italy has been made; now it remains to make Italians." In 1860 at most 10% of the Italian population spoke what would become the Italian language, there was only one railway line which crossed any of the pre-unification states, and many were openly hostile to the new nation. During the 19th and early 20th Centuries, those who governed France and Italy implemented a range of policies with the aim of building commonality among the population and "forming" what they determined to be "Frenchmen" and "Italians". They introduced state controlled education, including compulsory elementary schooling; banned languages other than the "national language" in schools, religious services and administrations; introduced compulsory military service often with the explicit aim of integrating and mixing individuals from different parts of the country; and extended road and rail links.
France and Italy are just two examples. History has witnessed a multitude of efforts to "nation-build". Tilly (1975) observes that "almost all European governments eventually took steps which homogenized their populations: the adpotion of state religions, expulsion of minorities..., institution of a national language, eventually the organization of mass public instruction." Hobsbawm (1990) notes, "states would use the increasingly powerful machinery for communicating with their inhabitants, above all the primary schools, to spread the image and heritage of the 'nation' and to inculcate attatchment to it," and that "the official or culture-language of rulers and elites usually came to be the actual language of modern states via public education and other administrative mechanisms." In contrast, European elites did not enact such policies in their colonies (Michalopoulus and Papaioannou, 2012). Yet once these colonies gained independence in the 1950's and after, many introduced policies to create a national language and national identity, similar to those of 19th century Europe (Miguel, 2004). The 20th century also saw dictators and political elites who built homogeneity by prohibiting local cultures and attempting to impose their ideologies, often by odious means, for example the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Mao's China, or Franco's Spain. Nation-building continues to remain relevant in the 21st century; in China, a range of nation-building policies are being implemented in peripheral regions which have large minority groups.