Though some of its statements are disputed by modern historians, Auguste Verdeil's Histoire du Canton de Vaud is an important resource for any student of the history of French-Speaking Switzerland. This work is elegantly and clearly written, intended as it was for a sophisticated audience who, like Verdeil himself, had witnessed the emergence of Vaud as a full partner in the modern Swiss Confederation. The Vaudois in 1850 were still developing a sense of their own history and of their place in the world. Verdeil's compelling account of how they became a nation appealed to local pride in its day, and in our day helps to explain to an outsider the reputations that have become attached to the characters that will be encountered in any study of the history and people of Vaud: why things are the way they are, and how the world was viewed in 1850.
By chance, a copy of this 3-volume work, owned first by the prefect of Nyon in 1859, then shipped to his own son in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by means unknown arrived at a used book store in Culver City, California, USA. Now it has come into my possession, and I have begun to transcribe it for publication on the internet. This process will take some time!
I make no apology for publishing this work in French; if your ancestors spoke French, surely you have the genetic predisposition to learn it for yourself! Besides, as a consequence of the Norman Conquest, English is but a northern dialect of French. In any case, Verdeil's writing is uncommonly clear and direct, well suited for conveying the broad sweep of history. In his day, the writing of prose was considered a fine art.
With few exceptions, the original work does not contain maps or illustrations. I will add appropriate images where possible. I will also add commentary to alert the reader to sections where modern scholarship has reached different conclusions. To my mind, these sections are of great interest, for they help us to understand the world view of our Vaudois ancestors.
Another volume of great interest has come into my possession: Dictionnaire Géographique et Statistique de la Suisse "par Marc Lutz, nouvelle édition, refondue et augmentée par A. DeSprecher. Traduit de l'allemand, avec l'autorisation de l'auteur. Revu, pour ce qui concerne la Suisse romande, par J.-L. Moratel. Lausanne, Librairie de F. Blanchard, éditeur, 1859." While this is primarily a work of geography, rather than history, there are a number of sections that complement Verdeil's account nicely. Some of these have been included in the supplementary materials that accompany the Verdeil's account.
Verdeil was clearly fascinated by history. He delights in tracing the progress of civil liberties, a thread that first comes to our attention in the Loi Gombette (Book 1, Chapter 2) and runs through almost every succeeding chapter. But, far from being an advocat of progressive theories of history, he also calls our attention to the odd way that mundane events, the sudden illness or death of principals, even laughable misunderstandings, have repeatedly altered the course of history. The farther it is traced, the more elaborate and compelling the pattern of these improbable coincidences becomes, until they become at last a magnificent, shining tapestry.