Jonathan Steinberg, Switzerland
"Any decent biography," a New York Times book reviewer recently remarked, "is a work of drama." Jonathan Steinberg's Why Switzerland? is truly a biography of Switzerland, and the story often has the substance of drama. Since the book has no subtitle, the author explains the three ways in which he is intending to answer the question "why." Why has a place such as Switzerland come about? Why should readers abroad care? And why should Switzerland continue to exist? "No country is more frequently visited but less known" (p. 4). What Steinberg manages to do very well is to provide answers to the three why's that are sustained by a deep historical sweep and that benefit from a wealth of data collected over more than 20 years. The author, a Reader in Modem History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Trinity Hall, had the advantage of conversing with high officials in the country, consulting experts of a wide range, and obtaining information from friends with whom he stayed in small-city settings, which often provided him with invaluable perspectives on local politics, administration, and culture. The book has chapters on History, Politics, Language, Wealth, Religion, and Identity, which I will review in turn below. All text and sources are carefully referenced, there is a 13-page Index, and even an Appendix of how one votes for the Nationalrat in Switzerland, no small feat to present and explain well.
Siegenthaler, Jurg K.
"Book Review: Jonathan Steinberg, Why Switzerland?,"
Swiss American Historical Society Review: Vol. 41:
3, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/sahs_review/vol41/iss3/4