Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Abstract Andreas Wuergler


Which Switzerland? Contrasting conceptions of the early modern Swiss Confederation in minds and maps

Andreas Würgler, History, Berne


The starting point of this contribution is the observation that the boundaries of the old Swiss Confederation had never been precisely fixed before its very end in 1798. Neither the early modern Swiss nor their European neighbours nor contemporary cartographers consented in their spatial conceptions of what they called Switzerland.

How was this possible? Which were the differences and how could they be explained? I should like to find some answers to these questions by discussing the Swiss ideas of Switzerland’s territory, the boundaries of the Swiss Confederation according to European (peace) treaties and finally the Swiss borderlines on early modern (Swiss and non-Swiss) maps.

Spatial conceptions of political units will be discussed as well as the spatial descriptions of boundaries relevant for the mutual military help between the thirteen cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. Contrasting conceptions might arise from time lags between the fixed old treaties and the changing new realities, from diverging confessional viewpoints, regional interests, international constellations, and – especially regarding the cartographers – lacking knowledge, propagandistic intentions or the tension between the maps purpose of information or representation.


Suggested reading:

Giudichetti, Franchino, Die italienischen Nachzeichnungen der Schweizer Karte des Aegidius Tschudi, in: Cartographica Helvetica 6 (1994).

Grosjean, Georges, 500 Jahre Schweizer Landkarten, Zürich 1971.

Würgler, Andreas, Art. “Eidgenossenschaft”, in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. See (also in French „Confédération“ and Italian „Confederazione“).