Country Flags and their Patriotic History
The origin of flags dates back to around 1000 BC when the Egyptians used a primitive version of the flag we know today. Originally used for identification or signalling to others, they became important symbols on land as well as at sea. Ships began to use them to signal to each other or to the harbour to warn against infectious diseases on board and they are still used today to let sailors know about weather conditions at sea. Although the most widespread use of flags today is to identify the countries of the world, national flags didn’t become common place until the 18th century.
The study of flags is called vexillology, a word that comes from the Latin vexillum meaning flag or banner. National flags have come to identify a country and their symbolism. There are 196 countries in the world and although there are similarities, every country has a different flag. The designs of some flags have evolved or changed throughout history especially if the symbolism of the flag had come to represent a negative or violent period in the country’s history. A common design of country flag is to have three vertical or horizontal divisions of a different or rotating colour like France with vertical stripes of red, white and blue or Hungary with horizontal bands of red, white and green. Denmark’s flag was designed in the 13th century and is the oldest design that is still in use. Many countries use images of religious symbols on their flags such as Turkey, Israel and Pakistan using crescents to symbolise Islam. The green, red, black and yellow on the flags of certain African countries represent people, bloodshed, fertile land and the desire for peace and independence.
Struggles and Battles
Flags symbolise past struggles and battles as well as representing present virtues and future goals of a country and its population. They can incite patriotism and have been used in the past following the achievement of landing on the moon, reaching the summit of Mount Everest and being the first to reach unchartered territory such as the North and South Poles. Unfortunately they have also represented negative periods in history for example the strong scull and crossbones image used by pirates and the swastika used by the Nazis, both provoking fear and hatred around the world. Flags incite patriotism and respect for those lives lost fighting for their country’s flag and its values. Used to rally the troops, one of the greatest uses of flags is in the military and capturing an enemy’s flag was seen as the honourable thing to do representing the battle had been won.
It is clear that the simple flag is far from humble. They have no doubt played a huge part in our past and will continue to do so in the future.