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HISTORY OF THE ALPS, 1500 - 1900


Jon Mathieu, translated by Matthew Vester

Publication Year: 2009

In the 1700s, Jean-Jacques Rousseau celebrated the Alps as the quintessence of the triumph of nature over the “horrors” of civilization. Now available in English, History of the Alps, 1500-1900: Environment, Development, and Society provides a precise history of one of the greatest mountain range systems in the world. Jon Mathieu’s work disproves a number of commonly held notions about the Alps, positioning them as neither an inversion of lowland society nor a world apart with respect to Europe. Mathieu’s broad historical portrait addresses both the economic and sociopolitical—exploring the relationship between population levels, development, and the Alpine environment, as well as the complex links between agrarian structure, society, and the development of modern civilization. More detailed analysis examines the relationship between various agrarian structures and shifting political configurations, several aspects of family history between the late Middle Ages and the turn of the twentieth century, and exploration of the Savoy, Grisons, and Carinthia regions.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-ii


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pp. iii


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pp. iv

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pp. 1-3

This book examines the history of the Alps from the end of the Middle Ages until 1900 and is guided by two questions: What was the nature of the relationships between demographic growth, economic development, and Alpine environment? And in what manner...

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1. The Alps: A Historical Space?

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pp. 5-22

The winter of 1988–89 witnessed two events whose importance for the history analyzed in this book was greater than one might imagine. In November 1988 the presidents of the three Alpine working communities, ALPS ADRIATIC, ARGE ALP, and...

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2. Population

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pp. 23-46

As Massimo Livi Bacci has recently noted, modern population history is characterized by the discovery of “the demographic system.” The upsurge, in around 1950, of research in historical demography led to subsequent efforts to isolate demographic variables...

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3. Agriculture and Alpiculture

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pp. 47-82

“There are no grounds less susceptible of improvement than mountainous pastures,” wrote Thomas R. Malthus in 1803. “They must necessarily be left chiefly to nature; and when they have been adequately stocked with cattle, little more can be done.” This assessment...

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4. Cities

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pp. 83-113

It has long been known that, both during the early modern period and in later times, there were few cities in the Alps. In 1588 the political writer Giovanni Botero, in his book On the Causes of the Greatness and Magnificence of Cities, stated that one reason why people...

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5. Environment and Development

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pp. 114-134

“Alps: Alpes is the term used by Strabo, Ptolemy, Herodianus, Pliny, Caesar, and other Greek and Latin writers to refer to the high mountain chain of 188 miles in length that separates Italy from Germany, France, and the Swiss confederacy.” Thus was informed...

Image Gallery

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6. Two Agrarian Structures (Nineteenth Century)

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pp. 135-160

This book examines the history of the Alpine space from the end of the Middle Ages until 1900 from the perspective of two central questions: (1) How did demographic expansion, economic development, and the Alpine environment affect each other? (2) In what...

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7. Territories during the Early Modern Period

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pp. 161-194

From the end of the Middle Ages until the French Revolution, agrarian structures shifted less rapidly, generally speaking, than they did from the late eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, the early modern period witnessed numerous...

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8. State Formation and Society

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pp. 195-221

If certain geographers of an older school had any say in the matter, we would not even be asking about the importance of political factors for the development of agrarian structure and society in the Alpine space. The ready-made answer would surely be that their impact...

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9. History of the Alps from 1500 to 1900

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pp. 222-228

As a European heritage the Alps form a natural, historical, cultural, and social entity of vital significance,” states an action plan for the “Future of the Alps” that was adopted by an international symposium in 1974. Does this mean we should consider the Alps—contrary to historiographic...


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pp. 229-239


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pp. 241-249


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pp. 250-260

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781935978138
E-ISBN-10: 1935978136
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933202341
Print-ISBN-10: 1933202343

Page Count: 276
Illustrations: 6 color images, five line drawings, 1 black and white photograph
Publication Year: 2009