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).

Swiss Federalism

The Swiss are justly famous for their political institutions and practices. Swiss federalism is both absolute and relative at the same time. None of the overlapping and irregular jurisdictions would have seemed odd to anybody who knew Europe before the French Revolution. Enclaves and exclaves occurred all over the map and especially among the many sovereignties of the Holy Roman Empire. The French with their obsession with uniformity, equality and centralisation impressed their ideals on modern consciousness. Swiss politics combines in a unique amalgam the surviving bits of the old Empire infused with modern practices of popular sovereignty from below. J. Steinberg, Why Switzerland ?, Cambridge 2015).

Why Switzerland ?

Why Switzerland, how it was that a nation-state, characterized by direct-democratic decision-making and by hesitation to follow the political norms of the neighbours, emerged, distant from the Italian city-states, the French Monarchy, and the empires that became Austria en Germany? Neither dynasty, nor language, nor religion brought about a national identity that could bolster a Swiss political nation. Instead, Switzerland seems in an important sense the result of its inhabitants´ own decisions, a nation resting on its habitants´ will, and of its own and its neighbours´ willingness to accept its various forms through the centuries as a political unit. (C.H. Church, R. C. Head, A Concise History of Switzerland, Cambridge 2017).