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Cartographica Helvetica


Hans-Peter Höhener:

Centralistic or federalisic Switzerland? Territorial division during the Helvetian Period 1798–1803 depicted on maps

Cartographica Helvetica 18 (1998) 21–31


The Helvetian Period, generating inner and outer pressure, was due to break the old confederation's fossilised forms. Long and painful struggle gave eventually way to a synthesis of Old and New so as to merge the mosaic-like historically shaped territories involving different rights and relationships into a new territorial division on a rational basis. A detailed table illustrates the administrative division of Switzerland during the period 1798–1803.

The initial Helvetian idea was doomed to failure for two reasons: firstly and mainly because resources to meet the many ambitious plans had grown short, irretrievably swallowed up by high contributions, plunderage, and missing sources of revenue. Second reason was the snag of both instability in the Helvetian government and foreign rule, exerted for example by Napoleon Bonaparte, thus impending a well-working administration. It was in fact just the beginning of the Helvetian Period that broke the ground for innovation and reform – later all sank into chaos and anarchism.

The borders of the cantons forming Switzerland in 1803 and those added subsequent to the Vienna Congress in 1815 have virtually remained unchanged, with however two exceptions: in 1833 the canton of Basel was divided into two half-cantons and in 1979 the canton of Jura was established.

Bibliographic note

  • Also published as: Das Ringen um eine neue Gebietseinteilung in der Helvetik (1798–1803). In: Der Weltensammler. Eine aktuelle Sicht auf die 16 000 Landkarten des Johann Friedrich von Ryhiner (1732–1803). ed. Thomas Klöti, Markus Oehrli, Hans-Uli Feldmann. Murten, 1998. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 15). pp. 50–55.
  • Also published as: Die Gebietseinteilung der Schweiz von der Helvetik bis zur Mediation (1798–1803). Dokumentation zur Faksimilierung. Murten, 2003. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 17).

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