Nationality has no reference to political unity. It serves to indicate the totality of the natural qualities that characterise the nation, without the idea of legal status which is connected with the term nation.
James Bryce says that “A nationality is a population held together by certain ties, as for example, language and literature, ideas, customs and traditions, in such a way as to feel itself a coherent unity distinct from other populations similarly held together by like ties of their own.” Whereas a nation is a nationality “which has organised itself into a political body either independent or desiring to be independent.”
John Stuart Mill’s conception of nationality is materially similar to that of James Bryce. He says, “A portion of mankind may be said to constitute a nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others which make them cooperate with each other more willingly, than with other people, desire to be under the same government and desire that it should be government by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively.”
Nationality, thus, indicates a common spiritual or psychological sentiment among the people having some common affinities or a “socio-cultural complex,” as Maclver puts it. Barnes says that nationality “is the collective name given to that complex of psychological and cultural factors which furnish the cohesive principle uniting a nation.”
It is, like religion, a matter of feelings thinking and living in pursuit of such a conviction. If any group of people begins to think themselves distinct from others, which distinction they are keen to maintain, they constitute a nationality.
The feelings of nationality are subjective and there is no measurable factor universal in application to which it can be traced. It is a sentiment of unity, a common mass consciousness that may be the result of many factors, like common race and language, common history of victories won and sufferings endured, common traditions and customs giving birth to a common culture and common political aspirations.
When all or some of these elements are present among the peoples, there is a feeling of kinship and their uniqueness that distinguishes them from others. All these factors have considerably contributed, at one stage or another, to the development of that sense of unity which marks off those who share it from the rest of mankind.
All the same, none of these factors is indispensable, although the presence of as many of them as possible helps the growth of a psychological sentiment of unity and oneness.