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 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

Another Democratic Island

Swiss history is to a large extent the story of how political institutions were modified to be as democratic as possible. What makes Swiss democracy so special, is the way it made the system really work. Most European countries and the European Union call themselves democracies nowadays, but appearance is (too) often rather deceptive however. … Read more » “Another Democratic Island”


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The First Skyscrapers

Swiss cathedrals in Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Basel, Sion or for example Chur (one of the oldest bishoprics north of the Alps) are worth seeing, but mountains are the true skyscrapers of the country. Millions of years ago, thus long before mankind built the first towers, the collision of Africa and Europe resulted in the formation of the … Read more » “The First Skyscrapers”


Swiss Art is like Swiss food, which at its best is excellent but has many of the characteristics borrowed from neighbours. Its art and artists are similarly cosmopolitan with a native strain of distinct roots, most notably the colourful past, the confederation, the wars of independence or the Alpine scenery. Until fairly recently there was no such thing as Swiss, as distinct from cantonal, history – just as until 1848 there was no such thing as Switzerland as a unitary state. Swiss history is made up of the histories of the 26 (half) cantons most of which until the middle of the 19th century led their own political and cultural existences. (W. Scott, Pictures at an Exhibition. An introduction to Swiss History and Art, Geneva, 2007).

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