Rereading Heights

Viatimages/Médiathèque Valais
Viatimages/Médiathèque Valais
Val-d’Illiez (David M. Jensen, Wikipedia)
Val-d’Illiez (David M. Jensen, Wikipedia)

Institutional Communication Service

16 January 2019

The coordinator of LabiSAlp - Laboratorio di Storia delle Alpi (USI laboratory for Alpine history) Prof. Luigi Lorenzetti has recently published with Yann Decorzant and Anne-Lise Head-König a new book on the connection between altitude, the types of housing, and the use of land. The book titled «Relire l'altitude. La terre et ses usages. Suisse et espaces Avoisinants, XIIe-XXIe siècles» includes extracts in French and German.

While combining environmental history, the history of the territory, and economical and social history, the authors approach the subject from different perspectives, including the various agro-pastoral systems, the influence of market economy, as well as political and institutional frameworks and variables.

On his hike through the Val-d'Illiez in 1770 with his walking partner Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, the artist from Geneva Marc-Théodore Bourrit was impressed by the valleys rich in fields and pastures, where crop grew up to the highest peak. The landscape described by Bourrit is long gone: meadows and pastures have replaced the cultivated land, and there is no trace of the old crops on the peaks.

The book is inspired by these memories and it comprises a series of historical studies from the middle ages to the 20th century. It delves into the connection between altitude, the types of housing and the use of land, comparing the areas at the bottom of the valley in the Swiss Alps and neighbouring regions with the peaks.

The resulting scenario shows that the relationship between man and his environment is far from being rigid and immutable and therefore changes over time. Some communities have been able to take advantage of high altitudes. For them they represent an opportunity rather than a burden or an obstacle


For more information on Laboratorio di Storia delle Alpi:
For more information on the book: