British travellers in Switzerland 1814-1860

Heafford, Michael Richard (2003) British travellers in Switzerland 1814-1860. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The thesis examines British travellers in Switzerland over the period from 1814 to 1860. Evidence was gathered on the travellers themselves: their numbers, social position, age and gender, as well as on the groups within which they travelled. The nature of the tours was also considered, in particular, their duration, the itineraries followed, and the responses of travellers to these itineraries. In order to build up as objective a picture of possible, evidence was sought from two different but complementary sources. The first comprised passport and other registers. These indicated not only the numbers of British visitors to the Continent in general, and to Switzerland in particular, but also furnished a range of information about the travellers themselves and their tours. Administrative arrangements relating to passport issue, and to frontier and internal controls, either required or requested from travellers details about their age, gender, social status and itinerary. At the same time, information was collected on the size and nature of travelling groups. In addition to collating and analysing this material, it was possible to examine the dates and places at which particular administrative formalities were carried out, and thereby to make at least tentative deductions about the rate of travel and the scope and length of the tour. In exploring the motivations of travellers, it was considered that hypotheses were likely to be more sound if objective evidence on the travellers themselves, and on the structure of their tours, was collected first.

Register evidence had the benefit that it was based on a large sample of travellers; its disadvantage lay in its focus on individuals at particular places and points in time. Thus, it did not convey a global view of the Continental tour, nor did it permit any detailed conclusions to be drawn about how the components of such a tour, including, in particular, a visit to Switzerland, might have fitted together. In order to gain insights into the Continental tour as a whole, a second, complementary source of evidence was tapped: accounts written by visitors to Switzerland during the period under review. Although the sample of these visitors in relation to the overall number of travellers was necessarily a small one, it enabled itineraries to be followed with much greater precision, and suggested which were the most popular. Because images of Switzerland created during the period provided both a record of visits and a stimulus for them, a study of the images of Switzerland published in Britain during the first half of the century was added to the section on travelogues.

The thesis seeks to contribute to the study of British travel in a way which is original in its combination of choice of period, of country, and of methodology. Firstly, little has been written about the British on the Continent between the end of the eighteenth century, when the Grand Tour may be considered to have ended, and the period when railways were sufficiently established to create new styles of travel, for instance in the development of 'package tours'. Secondly, France and Italy have dominated research studies into the British on the Continent to the relative exclusion of other countries. Finally, registers, which provide information about individual travellers, have not been exploited as an important source of evidence.

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