The Swiss Spectator deals with history and culture of Switzerland, a beautiful and remarkable country with a solid business environment, a relatively well-functioning democracy and rule of law. The Spectator aims to put Switzerland into the perspective of surrounding regions, in particular in Northern Italy (Valley of Aoste, Lombardy and Vinschgau (South Tyrol/Alto Adige), Eastern France (Franche-Comté, Alsace, Haute-Savoie and Savoie), Southern Germany (the Lake Constance (Bodensee) region) and Austria ((Voralberg and the eastern part of Tyrol). These regions have always played an important role in Swiss history and culture and are relevant to having a good understanding of the country. Four periods and subjects are of particular importance. The Roman Empire is covered from the perspective of romanization. The Middle Ages cover the time from the Kingdoms of Burgundy to the coming into being of Switzerland in the thirteenth century. The long nineteenth century covers the period from 1815 until about 1918 and the last subject deals with multicultural and cosmopolitan Switzerland. The rubrics news and newsletters cover these issues. There is also an overview of museums, cultural events and topical projects. Attention is also paid to the relationship between Switzerland and the European Union.

The Roman Empire and Romanization

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This section deals with the so-called ‘romanization’ of Switzerland compared to the above regions. These territories have a different development of romanization and the aim is to research the differences and similarities. The concept ‘romanization’ is disputed, but it means in so many words the adoption of Roman culture by the conquered peoples in the occupied territories. Switzerland is of great interest because of its central location and (mountain) roads, rivers and lakes from south to north and from west to east Europe.

The Middle Ages, Arts and State Building

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Switzerland experienced the gradual disintegration of the western part of the Roman Empire from the third century and the collapse in the fifth century. The region underwent invasions by German peoples, the rise of Frankish kings, the Carolingian Empire, the Burgundian, Habsburg and Savoie dynasties, The Holy Roman Empire, Christianity, cities, trade, Roman an Gothic art and the beginning of the Swiss nation in the thirteenth century, the time limit of this section.

The long nineteenth century 1815-1918

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Switzerland got its present borders after the Napoleonic wars. This was not self-evident, but the result of the Vienna Congress and the choice of the Cantons in 1815. Switzerland succeeded in uniting different economies, regions, histories, cultures and languages. This sections puts Switzerland into the European perspective of industrialization, culture, tourism, parliamentary democracy, massa communication, transport, population growth and education.

Multicultural and Cosmopolitan Switzerland

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A special point of attention is the development of German, French and Italian regions of Switzerland. The raeto-Roman culture will also be addressed. The Roman Empire is the starting point of this topic. Was the different romanization in western and eastern Switzerland decisive or rather the rise of powerful German speaking cities and the Holy Roman Empire in the later Middles Ages. What is the role and significance of the French Kingdom, the Duchy of Savoie and the Kingdoms and Duchies of Burgundy for example?

European Affairs

A Swiss Principality, the Congress of Vienna and the EU

Basel is not only a city in Switzerland, but also a canton. The canton of Basel-Landschaft or Baselland separated from this canton in 1833. The history of these two cantons is closely linked to the former Principality of Basel, a small independent episcopal state with Pruntrut (pollentruy in French) as its capital. The bishop was a … Read more » “A Swiss Principality, the Congress of Vienna and the EU”


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The annual cattle descent in Grisons

Since the 11th and 12th centuries there has been a fast urban development in large parts of Europe, including Switzerland. Old centres (Geneva, Zurich, Basel, Chur, for example) grew, new ones emerged or were specifically founded (Bern, for example). Agriculture and alpine farming also changed. The vast majority of people still  lived outside cities however. The … Read more » “The annual cattle descent in Grisons”


Charlemagne´s imperial coronation on Christmas Day 800 symbolized the revival of a Roman vision of imperium, not merely in title but in substance as well. Charlemagne ruled practically the whole of Latin Christendom, and a sequence of reform initiatives generated much greater Christian uniformity across the Latin West. And all of this at the command of Carolingian emperors, not of Roman popes. The great imperially sponsored monasteries, such as St. Gall, and the schools established in households of the (arch) bishoprics were the intellectual centres through which a real unity in the western Church was built up. (P. Heather, ´From Constantine to Charlemagne´ in M. Bormpoudaki a.o. (Eds.), Crossroads, Amsterdam 2017).

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