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Swiss Revolutions & the Confederation

Switzerland has emerged over the years we have studied through our Swiss Maturité course. During the Enlightenment, French Revolutions and rise of European Nationalism, Switzerland as we recognise it emerged from a loose collection of separate cantons dominated by religious and cultural differences to form the Helvetic Confederation which is still the basis of what we see as modern Switzerland.  Political ideology and revolution, economic growth and European realpolitik all helped contribute to this emergence.  On your left is a visual representation of the growth of modern Switzerland.  On the right is a scanned text which explains that emergence from 1789 to 1848...

Underneath we have an in-depth article about the events that transformed the ancien regime into its modern and contemporary state


Swiss Civics & Federal Semi-Democracy

WRS Swiss Up podcasts

Switzerland in 1848 created a radical new Constitution that created a federal political system that allowed for the Swiss Confederation to emerge.  This granted each canton a wide range of powers to govern their own affairs which was a necessary step given their multicultural, multilingual natures.  However, in order to ensure they remained united, all cantons agreed after the Sonderbund Wars to obey a central authority on certain key areas - this is federalism and explains why the federal authorities in Bern can impose laws on the whole of Switzerland.

The scanned texts on the right introduce what federalism is, the main parties that operate within the system, and what semi direct democracy is

Semi direct democracy is what makes Switzerland's political structure unique within our 21stC world.  It allows for popular perticipation within the political process outside of the regular elections all democracies have.  These regular elections are to vote in representatives of the people and as such when a democracy only uses elections it is known as a representative democracy.  What the Swiss Constitution does is to allow for people to vote on both laws that have been passed if they want the Government to think again, or they can compel the Government to organise a vote on an issue they see as important.  These are called referendums and initiatives respectively.  This increase in people power is what makes Swiss democracy semi-direct, halfway between the representative democracies elsewhere with minimal political action, and the direct democracies of history such as Imperial Rome where everyone cast their vote on all important political decisions. 


The powerpoints on the left outline how the Swiss semi-direct system works, along with an explanation of how its legislature, executive and judiciary all ensure Montesquieu's separation of powers is enforced at all levels - federal, cantonal, and communal....

This division of federal-cantonal-communal also allows each cultural, linguistic and economic area to have a degree of independence over their own affairs, which has proved vital in allowing Switzerland to emerge as a modern developed nation.  By ensuring stability and progressive planning, the political system has, especially since WW2, seen this emergence transform into success with switzerland consistently topping a wide range of tables in terms of standard of living, happiness, economic development etc

The PDFs on the right are scanned chapters from Swiss Politics for Beginners which explains this emergence and some of the key issues still facing Switzerland in the 21stC..

Finally, read the following articles for more depth about the comparisons and contrasts between the US and Swiss systems  (NB - they talk about Swiss direct democracy...which is semi-direct democracy...)

Swiss Neutrality & the 20th Century

Battle of Marignano 1515 - start of Swiss neutrality in the 16thC Italian Wars.

Since 1815, Switzerland's domestic stability has been bolstered by the international recognition of its neutrality.  It still has national service with all men at 18 required to train with the Army (although there are alternate routes nowadays) which means it is an armed neutrality, but it avoids all other entanglements outside its own borders.  This has meant on one hand that it has been able to emerge relatively unscathed from Europe's recently troubled history, but on the other hand there remain accusations and controversy about the role that Switzerland either took, or didn't take, over the 20thC.

Thre PDF and Word documents on either side are a scanned text about these events, and a set of note headings to accompany the text to help organise information...

A chronology of key events:

Great video on Swiss history, politics, economy, demographics

Swiss Votation on Immigration

Votation's result embarrasses France

Consequences with the EU

Immigration explanation and division in Switzerland

Quotas debates

Swiss immigration referendum (9/2/14)

Swiss vote no to capping bosses pay

Swiss to vote on incomes for all - working or not

Swissworld website

Swiss Parliament - Federal assembly homepage

Swiss Govt - Federal authorities of Swiss Federation homepage

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