Nidwalden, Landsgemeinde, um 1965. Photo/Foto: Nidwaldner Museum, Stans.

Nidwalden in the twentieth Century

The canton of Nidwalden repeatedly chose its way to remain independent. In 1798, Nidwalden rejected the Helvetic Republic (1798-1803) imposed by the French occupiers. The canton even waged war against Napoleon. The battle of 9 September 1798 claimed more than 400 Nidwaldner lives and caused long-term trauma.

In 1815, troops of the Swiss Confederation entered the canton and demanded acceptance of the Federal Treaty (Bundesvertrag). In 1845 the canton joined with six other Catholic cantons in the Sonderbund, which waged war with the (reformed) cantons of the Confederation in 1847.

The canton refused to join the new Confederation in 1848. The development of a small rural canton into a modern state was always fraught with obstacles. In addition to self-assertion and independence, there was a struggle for the privileges of the ruling Catholic-conservative elite.

Times are changing rapidly, however. In 1954, the Landsgemeinde voted for a better connection to the rest of the country. The population demanded a better road and rail network and even accepted the loss of autonomy.

Progressive personalities and outstanding pioneering works witness the canton’s modern (political) development. The canton became a (European) transit canton with a good connection to the railway and motorway network. The cantonal constitution of 1965, which received nationwide attention, was modern.

On 1 December 1996, the people of Nidwalden abolished the Landsgemeinde, a democratic institution for self-determination over 600 years old. Another sign of the will to reform.

(Source: Nidwaldner Museum, Stans).