Direct Democracy

Direct democracy means much more than occasionally consulting the public. In a sense, each voting citizen is a politician and politically active, just to different degrees. Direct democracy is an embracive, relatively confusing, sometimes time-consuming, delicately balanced, permanently rotating and constantly changing mechanism, whose purpose is to include in the decision-making process all those who must live with the consequences of the decision. It is of immense value, but only functions when everyone who wants to be a part of it has an idea how it functions. W. Thurnherr, The Swiss Confederation. A Brief Guide 2018. Bern, 2018.


Charlemagne´s imperial coronation on Christmas Day 800 symbolized the revival of a Roman vision of imperium, not merely in title but in substance as well. Charlemagne ruled practically the whole of Latin Christendom, and a sequence of reform initiatives generated much greater Christian uniformity across the Latin West. And all of this at the command of Carolingian emperors, not of Roman popes. The great imperially sponsored monasteries, such as St. Gall, and the schools established in households of the (arch) bishoprics were the intellectual centres through which a real unity in the western Church was built up. (P. Heather, ´From Constantine to Charlemagne´ in M. Bormpoudaki a.o. (Eds.), Crossroads, Amsterdam 2017).

Rhetia, Alemania, Swabia and Swiss Confederation

Swabia emerged from the region as Alemania after the Alemanni, who occupied what would later be Alsace, Baden, Württemberg and most of Switzerland, which was then still often referred to by its Roman name of Rhetia. Civic leagues were a response to the threats posed by (Habsburg) lords and princes. Central and western Switzerland saw the development of incorporated valleys (Talschaften), which in turn formed the basis of what were later called cantons. The Swiss Confederation went further by separating from the Empire as an independent state, establishing what is widely interpreted as one of modern world´s first democracies. (. (P-H. Wilson, Heart of Europe. A History of the Holy Roman Empire, Cambridge (MA), 2016).