Freshman Seminar, Tues 2-5, Fall 1997

 Ann Blair, Dept of History, Robinson Hall 216; 5-0752; Off hours: M 2-4; amblair at


Multicultural Switzerland


Catalogue description:

Ann Blair will offer a seminar investigating how Switzerland became a multicultural country in the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800). In an area not even twice the size of Massachusetts, Switzerland still harbors today many traces of the strong regionalism that was typical of pre-modern Europe; most striking now are its four official languages, two of which are subdivided into numerous dialects. Long before immigrant societies like the U.S. coped with multiculturalism, Switzerland faced serious internal tensions due to its extreme geographical and cultural fragmentation; while its better-known neighbors moved increasingly toward political and cultural centralization, Switzerland continued to foster and cope with remarkable regional diversity. Through primary and secondary readings we will examine how Swiss politics, society and literature were shaped in the early modern period by tensions between rural and urban, Protestant and Catholic, French- and German-language subcultures.



-regular attendance and active participation, including one (brief!) in-class oral presentation on the assigned readings

-two short papers (4-6pp) due in Week V (Friday Oct 17) and Week X (at the beginning of class Nov 18)

-final research paper on topic of your choice (with my agreement: any aspect of history or literature of Switzerland; or comparisons with other countries) due on last day of reading period (Tuesday Jan 13). ca. 10pp.


*All books on this list here are also on reserve in Lamont*

Books on order at COOP:

Jonathan Steinberg, Why Switzerland? (Cambridge UP; #0521484537; $19.95)

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (Norton; 0860915468; $??)

(Recommended) Uderzo and Goscinny, Asterix in Switzerland (#0917201574; $9.95) [also on order in French: Astérix chez les Helvètes]

Hans Guggisberg, Basel in the Sixteenth Century (Center for Reformation Studies, 1982).

Sourcebook (containing items marked with *)

Recommended (less than half the book is assigned reading):

Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre (Random House; #0394729277; $10)




Week I: admissions


Week II (Sept 23): Introduction: images of Switzerland today

Reading: Uderzo and Goscinny, Asterix in Switzerland

Steinberg, Why Switzerland?, chs. 1 and 8.


The foundations of the Swiss experience


Week III (Sept 30): What makes a country?

Reading: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities


Week IV (Oct 7): Swiss fragmentation and its origins in history and geography

Reading: *Benjamin Barber, The Death of Communal Liberty: a history of freedom in a Swiss mountain canton (1974), ch. 4 "The Alpine Environment" (pp. 78-106) and *maps from Randolph C. Head, Early Modern Democracy in the Grisons (1995)

Steinberg, Why Switzerland?, ch. 2 (to p. 42), ch. 4


Week V (Oct 14): political institutions

Reading: Friedrich Schiller, Wilhelm Tell

Steinberg, ch. 3.

SHORT PAPER #1 DUE FRIDAY OCT 17, 5pm (topics to be distributed)


The sixteenth century: explicating Platter


Week VI (Oct 21): a sixteenth-century Swiss life

Reading: *Thomas Platter, Autobiography

*Steven Ozment, The Protestants, pp. 169-81.

FIELD TRIP TO HOUGHTON LIBRARY, Friday October 24, 2-4pm, for a discussion of early printing and viewing of rare books


Week VII (Oct 28): the Reformation

Reading: *G.R. Potter, ed Huldrych Zwingli

*Hans R. Guggisberg, "The Problem of 'Failure' in the Swiss Reformation: Some Preliminary Reflections," in Politics and Society in Reformation Europe, ed. E. I. Kouri and Tom Scott, pp. 188-209.

Steinberg, ch. 6


Week VIII (Nov 4): Religious toleration

Reading: *Castellio, Concerning Heretics, 121-54 (dedication and Luther excerpts), 169-76 (Erasmus), 202-4 (Calvin, Brunfels), 206-16 (Augustine-Castellio)

Hans Guggisberg, Basel in the Sixteenth Century (1982).


WEEK IX (Nov 11): no class (Veterans' Day)

DRAFTS OF PAPER #2 DUE ON MONDAY NOV 10, to be distributed to all participants for comment (and in my mailbox); return comments to each author by Wednesday Nov 12 (e.g. by e-mail). Final papers due at the beginning of class on Nov 18.




Week IX (Nov 18): new attitudes toward nature: romanticism and natural theology

Reading: Rousseau, The New Héloïse, one page (photocopy)

Robert Darnton, "Readers respond to Rousseau," in The Great Cat Massacre (at COOP and on reserve)

*Samuel S. B. Taylor, "The enlightenment in Switzerland," in The Enlightenment in National Context, pp. 72-89.

Thomas Hankins, Science and the Enlightenment, pp. 113, 130-40 (photocopy)

Charles Bonnet, Philosophical and Critical Inquiries concerning Christianity (Philadelphia, 1803), to p. 26 (photocopy)

Abraham Trembley, on polyps (pp. 110-155 + plates--photocopy)

Gavin de Beer, Travellers in Switzerland (1949), pp. 30-40 (photocopy)

Presentation: by a senior in History and Science on Abraham Trembley and La Mettrie--comparing a French-speaking Swiss and a Frechman in their attitudes toward science and religion.


Week X (Nov 25): Swiss Enlightenment: the case of Lausanne

Reading: *Isabelle de Charrière, Letters from Lausanne

*Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of my life, ch. 8.


And Beyond...


Week XII (Dec 2): Switzerland and European wars

Reading: *C.W.C. Oman, The Art of War in the Middle Ages AD 378-1515, pp. 73-115: "The Swiss, 1315-1515"

*Pleasant Alexander Stovall, Switzerland and the World War (i.e. WWI) (1939), chs. 5, 7, 22, 28-29 (pp. 32-41, 48-54, 215-19, 242-53)

*Gonzague de Reynold, "Switzerland," in Neutral War Aims (London, 1940), pp. 101-7.

Steinberg, chs. 2 (53-end), 5 and 7.

Holocaust gold report, as available on the web


Week XIII (Dec 9): conclusions and student presentations on their paper in progress


Students will briefly present their topic and the difficulties they are encountering and take questions and comments


Final meeting (Jan 6): formal presentations of papers

read a 3-4 page version of your paper in the seminar and take questions.


A final dinner will take place in Pforzheimer House, to which we will invite some Swiss in the Harvard community to join us for informal discussion of issues of national identity.


Final paper due Tuesday Jan 13 (last day of reading period)