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Geneva, Zurich, Basel

Geneva, Zurich, Basel: History, Culture, and National Identity

Nicolas Bouvier
Gordon A. Craig
Lionel Gossman
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    Geneva, Zurich, Basel
    Book Description:

    Recognized by historians and politicians as a model for European unity, Switzerland is nonetheless a difficult country to understand as a whole. Whereas individual Swiss cities have strong identities in the international political, cultural, and economic arenas, the country itself seems to be less than the sum of its parts. To capture the elusive spirit of Switzerland, four eminent writers explore the roots of its political unity and cultural diversity in a series of urban portraits. Their observations make for both good storytelling and insightful social commentary.

    Nicolas Bouvier offers a quick-paced history of Geneva--the city John Calvin had envisioned as a radiating center of godliness, international in its scope and legal in its methods--the home of the Red Cross and the League of Nations and, since 1945, the location of numerous disarmament and diplomatic conferences. Gordon Craig examines Zurich, the city of the militant religious reformer Huldrych Zwingli, whose centralizing political zeal was harnessed by subsequent generations of Zurichers to lead Switzerland in its modernization. Today's economically powerful Zurich is analyzed in terms of its liberal past as a refuge for political activists and artists, and in terms of its current generational divisions on moral and cultural questions. Finally, Lionel Gossman explores the conciliatory Basel of Erasmus, showing how vigorous independence, resourcefulness, and remembrance of its humanist traditions shaped the city's culture and economy. Tying together important themes in the histories of these cities, Carl Schorske focuses his introduction on how Switzerland has capitalized on their cultural differences and refined the art of political negotiation to serve a wide range of civic interests.

    Originally published in 1994.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6369-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Lionel Gossman

    The three city studies in this volume were originally presented at a colloquium on the topic “Cultural Unity and Diversity: Switzerland after 700 Years,” which was held at the University of Southern California on March 15, 1991. Sponsored by the Pro Helvetia Foundation and the Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies, the Colloquium was intended to mark the seven hundredth anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The introduction, by Carl E. Schorske, was written later.

    The authors of the three studies were unknown to each other before the colloquium and wrote independently. Two are American university professors: one a professor of...

    (pp. 1-16)
    Carl E. Schorske

    Are we living through a Swiss moment in European history? Since the end of the Second World War, the nations of Western Europe, sated with the terrors of history, have been groping for an institutional framework strong enough to protect them against themselves and against powers even mightier. Yet that framework must be loose enough to allow the autonomy of each participant to flourish. It is a road that Switzerland travelled before them. A microcosm of Europe, with its divisions of nationality, religion, economy, and regional culture, Switzerland took seven hundred years to achieve its supranational federal state. Yet now,...

    (pp. 17-40)
    Nicolas Bouvier

    Historically and geographically, Geneva is the least Swiss of the three cities evoked in this book. In sentiment, it is as Swiss as any other.

    Last week, I was discussing the hackneyed problem of Swiss identity with Hugo Loetscher, the Zurich novelist and journalist. Which would come first, the question ran, Swiss or local patriotism? Loetscher said he did not care. I do. The Zurichers have been Swiss for six hundred years, since 1394 to be precise. My family has been Genevan for three hundred years and Swiss since 1814. That does make a difference, quantitatively if not qualitatively.


    (pp. 41-62)
    Gordon A. Craig

    The first time that I went to Zurich was in November 1983 when I was beginning work on my book about the city. It was a dark, cold season—not the right weather for seeing Zurich for the first time—but my mind was not, in any case, bent upon tourist attractions. I lived in a motel on the Universitätsstrasse that catered to a lively international clientele, a good proportion of whom were Iranians who had fled the revolution in their own land and were awaiting visas that would permit them to go to the United States. The hubbub that...

  5. BASEL
    (pp. 63-99)
    Lionel Gossman

    Since roman times there has been a major settlement where the city of Basel stands, at the furthest point of navigation on the Rhine, on the great overland route between Northern and Western Europe and Italy, the North Sea and the Mediterranean. For centuries people here have made a living from the transshipment of goods passing between the Low Countries and Italy, and between France and southern Germany. Even today, Basel is one of the nodal points of the European rail network. It is also an important banking center and the headquarters of three of the leading chemical and pharmaceutical...