The Freedom of the Swiss
7 July 2016
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 developed his intellectual abilities in Lausanne. He lived for five years in this city (1751 to 1756). He was interested and fascinated by Switzerland as a country and as a confederation.
He wrote in French. His first publication was called Journal de mon voyage dans quelques endroits de la Suisse. 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 another year.
He continued his trip to Rome in the company of the Englishman Willem Guise (1737-1783). He decided in Rome 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.
Back in England, the History of the Freedom of Switzerland was still in his mind, and he indeed put it on paper.
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).