The relationship between Switzerland and Great-Britain
27 November 2021
The heyday of the relationship between Switzerland and Great Britain was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Switzerland had a cult status in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Many writers, historians, travellers, politicians, diplomats and merchants praised the political system, the state’s organisation and the Confederation’s functioning (Eidgenossenschaft). They were impressed by the landscape and towns.
Edward Gibbon, Charles Dickens, Conan Doyle, John Ruskin, William Turner, Mark Twain, Thomas Cook, David Hume and Lord Byron admired the country.
Geneva became a pilgrimage destination 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 twenty-two cantons (1815) and the new Constitution of 1848, Anglo-Saxon attention focused on tourism, business and trade.
English engineers played a crucial role in constructing 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 of Paris (1815) and Turin (1816) 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 in the perception and experience of Anglo-Saxon public opinion. The famous speech of Winston Churchill on 19 September 1946 in Zurich was the last remarkable statement of a British politician on Swiss territory, not about Switzerland but about the future of Europe. The irony of history.
Churchill also said that Great Britain would not be part of the United States of Europe, but it would assist in realising the project. Zo was het voor Churchill ook duidelijk dat:
“Great Britain would not be part, but it would assist in realising the project. We British have our own Commonwealth of Nations“.