Integration through Land Improvment – Internal Colonization in Switzerland During the First Part of the 20th Century

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Burkhard, Daniel (2015)

Internal colonization in Switzerland is often seen in connection with the battle for cultivation in the Second World War, but the history of internal colonization in Switzerland is more complex. The food crisis in the First World War formed the horizon of experience for various actors from industry, consumer protection, the urban population and agriculture to start considering practical strategies for managing agricultural production. In this way, traditional spaces, such as rural and urban areas and economic roles, such as food producer, consumer and trader, overlapped and were newly conceived to some extent: people started thinking about utopias and how a modern society could be designed to be harmonious and resistant to crisis. The aim of this article is to trace some of the key points in this process for the interwar years in neutral Switzerland. In the process, the focus must be on the context of people’s mentalities in the past, although the relationships between the actors of internal colonization and the state also need to be considered. Internal colonization in Switzerland in the twentieth century can be understood as an open process. In principle, the project was driven by private actors, but in times of crisis, the project was claimed by the state as a possible tool for social and economic intervention. In addition, as a result of the planned dissolution of urban and rural spaces, it will be shown that modern societies in the interwar period were on an existential search to overcome the problems of the modern age. Internal colonization can therefore be seen as an attempt to find a third way between a world characterized by an agrarian society and a modern industrial nation.
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