Period IV

Canton of Fribourg, member of the Federation since 1848. Photo: TES.

The Alpine Convention

The formation of political space in Europe can be described as a process of concentration. At the beginning of early modern times, around 1500, there were about two hundred independent states on the continent, shortly before 1900 there were only thirty of them. The increasing size of state territories is reflected in their declining numbers.

In the Alpine region one can follow the process with the help of encyclopedias: In 1732 Johann Heinrich Zedler (1706-1751) enumerated more than twenty political units in the Alps (mostly cantons). The encyclopedias of the late 19th century no longer named these small units, but the states above them, such as the Austrian Monarchy, the Kingdom of Italy, the French Republic and the Swiss Confederation. On the one hand, the nationalisation of the Alps was an opening process. Small territories thus opened up to larger state spaces. On the other hand, the borders between the nation states became barriers, underpinned by community ideologies and increasing militarization in the first half of the twentieth century. After the Second World War, the development went into a different direction (apart from the European Union). The emergence of regionalism is evident in the Alpine region and its high border density. It first manifested itself in the establishment of transnational working communities at a regional level and on 7 November 1991 in the Alpine Convention. Thus, for the first time in history, this region created a political structure. (J. Mathieu, Die Alpen. Raum, Kultur, Geschichte, Stuttgart 2015).