Local History

Brandis Castle, Maienfeld. Photo: TES.

A Political Novum in Europe

The three Leagues: The Grey League (Graue or Obere Bund), The League of the Ten Jurisdictions (Zehngerichtebund), and the League of the House of God (Gotteshausbund) founded The Republik of the Free State of the Three Leagues (Freistaat der Drei Bünde) in 1524.

The early development of autonomy without aristocratic of royal interference was exceptional at the time. It was the case in other Swiss Alpine regions  (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Glarus, Zug, Appenzeller) and cities (Bern, Zurich, Lucerne, Basel, Freiburg and Solothurn, for example.

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.

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