Friday, 5 February 2010

A Swiss Family Historian

Today is the birthday, in 1505, of Aegidius Tschudi, the first historian (of a fashion) of the Swiss Confederation, an entity still mysterious to many. His most celebrated work, De prisca ac vera Alpina Rhaetia, published in 1528, is a history of the Raetia, the name of the Roman province and its people that now makes up much of eastern and central Switzerland. The Helvetii, the Alpine tribe who give their name to modern day Switzerland – Helvetia – were their western neighbours. Until the 19th century, Tschudi’s writings were highly regarded but were found to be misleading, a means of advancing his own family’s claims to a supposedly noble past. So, all in all, not the greatest or most trustworthy of historians, but Swiss practitioners of the craft are not numerous so I thought I would bring him to your attention. You probably won’t find his work in your local Waterstones.

David Birmingham looks at how the invented traditions of 19th-century Swiss history cemented a sense of national identity, in The 1848 Unification of Switzerland

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