Period III

J. Reynolds, (1723–1792), Edward Gibbon, c. 1785. Foto: Wikipedia

The Freedom of the Swiss

The history of the Freedom of the Swiss by Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) was recently published, two hundred years after the original French publication in 1815, in a German version entitled Die Freiheit der Schweizer. Gibbon is considered the father of modern historiography and is still one of the most important English historians. His best-known work is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Gibbon, however, developed his intellectual abilities in Lausanne. He was there for five years from 1751 to 1756. He was interested and fascinated by Switzerland as a unique country and a confederation with a, even then, a different form of government. He wrote in French, and his first publication was called Journal de mon voyage dans quelques endroits de la Suisse. But the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) ended Gibbon’s stay in Lausanne.

After the end of this war, he went on a trip to Italy. He travelled via Paris and Lausanne, where he stayed for almost a year.  He travelled then with the Englishman Willem Guise (1737-1783) to Rome. There he decided to write The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The last part of this six-volume story was published in 1788.

But in 1765, back in England, the History of the Freedom of Switzerland was still in his mind, and he indeed put it on paper. However, it was not published in French until 1815, two decades after his death, under the title Introduction à l’histoire Générale de la République des Suisses and only two hundred years later in German. (Edward Gibbon, Die Freiheit der Schweizer, Zurich 2015).