Napoleon’s Forgotten Switzerland

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It is not an experience that the Swiss like to remember. Not a single one of the five years that the Helvetic Republic lived between 1798 and 1803 was peaceful: battles, coups d’état and revolts followed one another under the sign of constant French interference and regular looting. national resources. However, this accursed period was the founder and the federal Switzerland of 1848 owes a large part of its institutions to it. This is the thesis defended by Biancamaria Fontana in a new work from the Savoir Suisse collection.

The application to the confederate cantons of the unitary and egalitarian political recipes of the French Revolution, she recalls, is desired by some of the political elites. And if it deeply collides with other factions which will resist the need by arms, it lays down principles on which we will never come back: equality between the cantons, which now include the former subject countries, free movement throughout the territory. , obligation to resort to popular vote to amend the Constitution among other things. Another institution disappeared in 1803 but reappeared to last in 1848: the collegial government.