Local History

Brandis Castle, Maienfeld. Photo: TES.

A Political Novum in Europe

Grisons was the name for the three allied members Graue or Obere Bund, Zehngerichtebund, and the Gotteshausbund. Grisons (Graubünden in German) was founded in 1524 when the three allies agreed to do so.

The particular thing about the development in the Swiss regions of the Central Alps (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Glarus) and Grisons was the early development of autonomy without aristocratic interference.

The local municipalities and small towns were peasant republics or small trading communities. The most affluent families were powerful, but direct democracy was the political model. It was the community, the Landsgemeinde. that guaranteed laws, treaties and justice and not a monarchy or oligarchy of burghers.

Elections were held regularly.  Due to the absence of an urban center, power remained decentralised over many smaller political units.

That was unique at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It still determines the unique, well-functioning direct and local democracy in the Swiss Federation. (Source: R. Head, Early Modern Democracy in Grisons, Oxford 1995).