Schul-, Praxis- und habituelles Herrschaftswissen. Bildung ländlicher Eliten mit Blick auf die korporative Selbstverwaltung in der frühmodernen Schweiz (18. und 19. Jahrhundert)

Schläppi, Daniel (2013). Schul-, Praxis- und habituelles Herrschaftswissen. Bildung ländlicher Eliten mit Blick auf die korporative Selbstverwaltung in der frühmodernen Schweiz (18. und 19. Jahrhundert). In: Freist, Dagmar; Schmeckel, Franz (eds.) Projektion und Distinktion ländlicher Oberschichten im europäischen Vergleich, 17. bis 19. Jahrhundert. Hinter dem Horizont: Vol. 2 (pp. 235-248). Münster: Aschendorff-Buchverlag

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Knowledge taught at schools, everyday skills and practical know-how. The relevancy of formation for local elites and the corporative self-government of Early Modern Switzerland
Daniel Schläppi, Bern

There were different kinds of rural elites in Early Modern Switzerland. The diverse parts of the country developed in very dissimilar ways politically and economically. Some regions were dominated by traditional types of agriculture. Some territories were ruled by major cities. In some of the rural Cantons like Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Glarus and Zug a political elite took control over generations and practiced a cultural lifestyle comparable to the famous aristocracies in cities like Bern, Basel, Freiburg, Luzern, Solothurn and Zurich.

Intense proto-industrialization formed a completely different sort of elite with strong affinities to industry and trade in other regions. Meanwhile the habitants of the valley close-by stayed farmers like their ancestors (like in Appenzell). In the most conservative parts of the country mercenary business played an important role till the very end of the Ancien Regime and even furthermore. In summery the variety of historical circumstances caused heterogeneous elites all over. Such socio-political diversity provoked a variety of educational backgrounds.

I an academic understanding of the term we know only little about literacy in local rural elites. But there is strong evidence that a lively culture of reading and story-telling existed. This means that even simple countrymen seem to have been in possession of some books. The organisation and capacity of the school system is subject of controversial discussions among up to date researchers. The state of research makes us suppose that the people designed to political careers learned their essential skills not only in school but also in everyday life or on the job.

Based on the fact that every community and countless public corporations managed their affairs by their own it’s evident that the local elite’s key-players had a large repertoire of techniques and skills like writing, calculating, strategic thinking or knowledge of oral tradition, old usage or important rituals.

Unfortunately the historical actors left not that many sources that would tell us precisely how knowledge and know-how were transferred in former times. Hardly any private account books or common correspondence have been conserved. But a huge bunch of sources that originate from corporative self-administration shows us that most local elites were well-educated and had the necessary skills anyway.

Above all other sources like for instance the «Topographische Beschreibungen» (topographic descriptions) that were initiated by the «Ökonomische Gesellschaft» of Berne since the sixties of the 18th century provide an insight into pre-modern classrooms. More important information on the historical formation-reality can be gained by the autobiography of the famous poor peasant Ulrich Bräker (1735‒1798) or some of the novels by Albert Bitzius (1797‒1854, better known as Jeremias Gotthelf). The pedagogic writings by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746‒1827) and the influences by his mentors Johann Rudolf Tschiffeli (1716‒1780) or Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg (1771‒1884) are quite illustrative as well.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Swiss History

UniBE Contributor:

Schläppi, Daniel


900 History > 940 History of Europe




Hinter dem Horizont






Daniel Schläppi

Date Deposited:

06 Mar 2014 17:37

Last Modified:

06 Mar 2014 17:37


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