In-between “Swedish Gymnastics” and “Deutsche Turnkunst:” Educating “National” Citizens through Physical Education in Switzerland in the Last Decades of the Nineteenth Century

Ingrid Brühwiler


In Switzerland, physical education was as important as it was in other European countries during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Different visions of physical education were adapted to the Swiss context to promote national citizens that were strong and healthy and thus capable of protecting their fatherland. Discussions of Per Henrik Ling’s “Swedish system” and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn’s “Deutsche Turnkunst,” both of which were adapted in the francophone and the germanophone parts of Switzerland, dominated the discourse. Until the end of the nineteenth century, patriotic ideals permeated the army-ruled physical education, although methodology and health topics were discussed as well. The national and civic aims of physical education were the same for girls and boys, with one very important exception: boys were prepared for military service, whereas girls were primarily prepared to be good future mothers.

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