chapter  1
6 Pages

The Early Years

Today Zurich is a large and prosperous town, the seat of one of the mostfamous technological universities in Europe, and a centre of world banking. In the eighteenth century the town was already a commercial and cultural centre. Then, however, unlike today, the wealth of the town was in the hands of a very few families and the rest of the population lived in poverty. The constitution was in theory a democratic one, as all citizens could vote; but for many years it had become impossible to become a citizen - citizenship being passed from father to son like a kind of title. The form of government was, therefore, almost as despotic as that in neighbouring France, with the result that, as the century drew on, there were moves, mainly initiated by liberal-minded but uninfluential citizens, for political and social reforms.