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Switzerland: A Village History [Paperback]

David Birmingham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2004
Switzerland: A Village History Is An Account of an Alpine village that illuminates the broader history of Switzerland and its rural, local underplanings. It begins with the colonization of the Alps by Romanized Celtic peoples who came from the plain to clear the wilderness, establish a tiny monastic house, and create a dairy economy that became famous for its cheeses. Over ten centuries the village, like the rest of Switzerland, went through the taumas of religious reformation and political revolution. A single currency, a unified postal service, and eventually an integrated army brought improved stability and prosperity to the union of two dozen small republics. Yet Switzerland's enduring foundation remains the three thousand boroughs to which the Swiss people feel they truly belong. In Switzerland: A Village History, distinguished scholar David Birmingham tells the story of his childhood village - Chareau-d'Oex - where records of cheesemaking date to 1828. The evolution of this ancient grazing and forest economy included the rise of the legal profession to keep track of complex deeds, grazing allotments, and animal rights-of-way. Switzerland's eventual privatization of communal grazing land drove many highlanders to emigrate to the European plains and overseas to the Americas. The twentieth century brought wealth from foreign tourism to Switzerland, punctuated by austerities imposed by Europe's wars. Alpine peasants were integrated into Swiss union society and began at last to share in some of the prosperity flowing from urban industry. Switzerland: A Village History replaces the mythology and patriotic propaganda that too often have passed for Swiss history with a rigorous, insightful, and charming account of the daily life, small-scale rivalries, and local loyalties that actually made up Swiss history.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Swallow Press; New edition edition (1 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080401065X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804010658
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"An enthralling picture of the locality in its broader Swiss and international context. Birmingham's mastery of the minutiae is coupled with an experienced understanding of the development of rural societies and of the complicated cultural, linguistic and political mix which was and is Switzerland. Vivid and delightful."-- "English Historical Review"

About the Author

David Birmingham lived in Switzerland from 1947 to 1954 as a child and returned there in the 1990s as a visiting historian. From 1980 to 2001 he held the chair of Modern History in the University of Kent at Canterbury in England. He is the author of many books, including Portugal and Africa (see page 22).

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic insight into modern Switzerland 25 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For anyone with an interest in modern Switzerland and any knowledge of the Vaud / Bern border areas this book is a must. It is readable and fascinating and helps you place into context the patterns of contemporary life and social structure. If in doubt, buy it.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great History of a Village In Switzerland! 11 Jan 2011
By Erin Flory - Published on Amazon.com
As I am a family history nut, I've been looking for books about the history and culture of Switzerland to learn more about my ancestors' experiences, and have found how rare books about Switzerland are.

This book was a great find! While it focuses on the area of Chateau-d'Oex, much of what Mr. Birmingham writes applies to other areas of Switzerland as well! Not only does he give good descriptions of the major political, economic, and religious events, but he provides many details of the day to day lives of the people of Switzerland. This included courting rituals (bundling!) and marriage patterns, daily and seasonal routines of dairy farmers, etc.

A must for anyone who is interested in learning more about Swiss history and culture! I hope Mr. Birmingham plans to continue his research and writing about Switzerland.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Switzerland: Village History is a good find for getting to know Swiss History. 28 Feb 2013
By Andrew P Cox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is descript and always has a characteristic for centering itself in a fusion of the interesting and the valuable. The book includes maps of Switzerland which provide landmarks referred to in the book. The author is also knowledgeable of the subject and has a crisp writing style. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get to know Switzerland.
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