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Switzerland, federal republic in west central Europe. Switzerland is a small, landlocked country set amid mountainous terrain in the heart of the European continent. It is bordered on the west by France, on the north by Germany, on the east by Austria, and on the south by Italy. The tiny principality of Liechtenstein lies between Switzerland and Austria. Each of the four major bordering countries has had an influence on Swiss culture. The Swiss people are an ethnic mix consisting mainly of native German, French, and Italian speakers, and most towns have two or even three correct names in those languages. The country has an area of 41,285 sq km (15,940 sq mi). Its largest city is Zurich, and the capital is Bern.
Switzerland’s official name is Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin for “Helvetic Confederation”), which is frequently translated in English as Swiss Confederation. The Helvetii, an ancient Celtic people who occupied what is now western Switzerland, were defeated by the Roman army of Julius Caesar in the 1st century bc. As a province of Rome, the region became known as Helvetia. The name Confoederatio Helvetica, an ethnically and linguistically neutral term that recalls this ancient history, is testimony to an enduring desire to forge unity among a diverse population. The name Switzerland (French Suisse; German Schweiz; Italian Svizzera), the nation’s widely recognized but unofficial designation, is a variation on Schwyz, a territory that in 1291 became the first member of the present-day confederation. The Swiss flag, a red square with a centered white cross, is a variation on the traditional flag of the Schwyz region.
For younger readers
Hintz, Martin. Switzerland. Rev. ed. Children's Press, 1996. An introduction to the country; for readers in grades 5 to 8.
Levy, Patricia M. Switzerland. 2nd ed. Marshall Cavendish, 1994. For readers in grades 6 to 8.
Netzley, Patricia D. Switzerland. Lucent, 2001. For readers in grades 5 to 8.
Birmingham, David. Switzerland: A Village History. St. Martin's, 2000. Ten centuries of Swiss history as seen through the history of a rural Alpine village.
Bonjour, Edgar. A Short History of Switzerland. Greenwood, 1985. Standard concise account; reprint of 1952 edition.
Luck, James Murray. A History of Switzerland, the First 100,000 Years: Before the Beginnings to the Days of the Present. Sposs, 2001. Includes an analysis of recent social, economic, and cultural issues.
Schrepfer, Margaret. Switzerland, the Summit of Europe. Dillon, 1989. Geography, history, and culture of Switzerland. For younger readers.
Ziegler, Jean. The Swiss, the Gold, and the Dead: How Swiss Bankers Helped Finance the Nazi War Machine. Penguin, 1999. Startling revelations of how Switzerland was not as neutral during World War II as previously believed.
Switzerland: Politics, Society, and Culture
Hilowitz, Janet Eve, ed. Switzerland in Perspective. Greenwood, 1990. Essays on social conditions, politics, and the economy since 1945.
Immergut, Ellen M. Health Politics: Interests and Institutions in Western Europe. Cambridge University Press, 1992. Analysis of the differences in health-care policies in Switzerland, Sweden, and France.
Linder, Wolf. Swiss Democracy: Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multicultural Societies. 2nd ed. St. Martin's, 1997. Examines Switzerland's institutions of federalism and consensus democracy.
Luck, James Murray. A History of Switzerland, the First 100,000 Years: Before the Beginnings to the Days of the Present. Sposs, 2001. Includes an analysis of more recent social, economic, and cultural issues.
Milivojevic, Marko. Swiss Neutrality and Security. Berg, 1991.
Schwok, Rene. Switzerland and the European Common Market. Greenwood, 1991. Relations with the European Economic Community as the Swiss reexamine their historic neutral policies.
Schrepfer, Margaret. Switzerland, the Summit of Europe. Dillon, 1989. Geography, history, and culture of Switzerland; for middle school readers.
Steinberg, Jonathan. Why Switzerland? Cambridge University Press, 1976, 1996. Examination of Switzerland's history, politics, and culture in relation to the rest of the world.
Heatwole, Charles, B.A., M.S., Ph.D. Professor of Geography, Hunter College, New York. He is author of Switzerland: Confoederatio Helvetica and coauthor of Geography for Travel and Tourism.
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