The relationship between Switzerland and Great-Britain
27 July 2020
The heyday of the relationship between Switzerland and Great-Britain was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ending with Churchill’s famous speech in Zurich in 1946.
Switzerland had a cult status in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Many writers, historians, travellers, politicians, diplomats and merchants praised the political system, the organisation of the state and the functioning of the Confederation (Eidgenossenschaft) and were impressed by the landscape and towns.
Edward Gibbon, Charles Dickens, Conan Doyle, John Ruskin, William Turner, Mark Twain, Thomas Cook, David Hume, Alexis de Tocqueville and Lord Byron admired the country.
Geneva became a pilgrimage destination, in particular after the Glorious Revolution in 1688. Geneva and the Academy of Calvin were hot spots.
The first article about Geneva appeared in 1761, written by George Keate, “A Short account of the Republic of Geneva“. Many writings followed.
After the Napoleonic Wars and the creation of the new Eidgenossenschaft of 22 cantons (1815) and the new Constitution of 1848, Anglo-Saxon attention focused on tourism and trade.
English engineers played a crucial role in the construction of the Swiss railway network. Tourism and trade flourished.
Great Britain also supported the country at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) and the separate peace treaties (1814/1815 and Turin 1816), and during the Sonderbundkrieg of 1847 and the Prussian crisis in 1856/1857.
The first test in their relationship was the Boer War in South Africa (1900-1902).
Switzerland no longer played a significant role after 1945 in the perception and experience of Anglo-Saxon public opinion.
The age of Brexit has given new opportunities.