Before I moved to Switzerland in 2022 with my Swiss partner, my knowledge of the country did not stretch much further than chocolate, mountains and fondue. Sure, I had been seeing various parts of the country over the years, but did not know much about how Switzerland became…Switzerland! One can indulge in Wikipedia articles, endless youtube videos or history books to learn more about the history of ‘Confoederatio Helvetica‘, there definitely is enough material to go after. However, I found a much more entertaining way to learn more about Swiss history: the book ‘Swisstory’!
Swisstory, The Untold, Bloody, and Absolutely Real History of Switzerland
I came across the Swisstory book one of my favorite book stores in Switzerland: Stauffacher in Bern. This immense book store in the Neugasse in Bern has one of its floors dedicated to a massive English book section. Every time I visit this store, I leave with at least one or more books. Here, you find thrillers, language books and crime detectives, books about self-improvement and also a big section with books about Switzerland! I had been wanting to learn more about Swiss history, but most of the books seemed a bit dry. The colourful cover of the Swisstory book certainly caught my attention!
‘Swisstory, The Untold, Bloody, and Absolutely Real History of Switzerland’ is written by Laurie Theurer and illustrated by Michael Meister. And yes, it is definitely worth mentioning the illustrator here. You see, Swisstory is not a normal book, it is a unique combination of Swiss history briefly and hilariously described, combined with quirky illustrations. From family trees to the depiction of Switzerland under a thick layer of ice, the funny and informative illustrations are found throughout the book.
A mix of history and legends
Is the book Swisstory 100% historically accurate? I would not know for certain. What I do know however is that the Swisstory book is a very entertaining book that is hard to put away once you start reading. It starts describing Switzerland during the ice age and then continues to explain the founding of Switzerland in its current form. It tells about Swiss legends and well-known Swiss people of the past. I now finally know the history behind street names in my neighbourhood such as Winkelriedstrasse and Habsburgerstrasse!
I could not help myself but laughing out loud when reading about Swiss historical battles. It also does not shy away from important topics such as the Swiss role during the second world war and celebrating great Swiss women in history. On the latter topic, the writer Laurie Theurer has written another book as well called ‘50 Amazing Swiss Women: True Stories You Should Know About‘
A perfect gift for young and old
The book is described to be for ‘Children and Children at heart’. I would argue this book is perfect for anyone that wants to learn about Swiss history without ploughing through dry and boring books about the history of the country. Sure, some of the illustrations are a bit slapstick, but overall the book manages to keep you entertained from cover to cover.
The book is available in both English and German and is for sale at many Swiss book stores. Internationally, Amazon seems to be selling the book as well. The book has retail price of about CHF 20 (at the time of writing this article). This makes it a reasonably priced gift for anyone that needs to learn more about Switzerland. Maybe even for those that needs a refresher?