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Swiss American Historical Society Review

Swiss American Historical Society Review

Authors

Keywords

Switzerland, Swiss history, European history

Abstract

Few nation states embody ideals of freedom and liberty like Switzerland. Embedded within a complex European context while maintaining internal diversity, this Alpine nation with an intricate history remains a powerful case study for historians interested in revolutionary Europe , republicanism, and political modernity. Marc H. Lerner now adds the newest analysis to this broader field. In his view, "the Swiss case is important to the overall project of examining the origins of modern political liberty precisely because of the mixed and blended discourses that resulted from the pragmatic discussions found in republican Switzerland" (8). Rightfully describing Switzerland between 1750 and 1848 as a "laboratory of liberty," Lerner aims to illuminate "the emergence of modern political liberty in Europe and the modern federal state in Switzerland" (3). His focus on the three cantons Zurich, Schwyz, and the Pays de Vaud provides Lerner with unique possibilities to compare trends and discourses; his use of "controversialist" methodology (22) and his reliance on a wide array of pamphlets and journals to "reveal the fault lines that existed within the Old Confederation and Europe" (11) gives his analysis a sound empirical basis. These aspects provide sufficient evidence and "open a window onto the origins of modern political society" (13).

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