Swiss Alpine Milk, Education, and the Fabrication of the Ideal Swiss Citizen

Michèle Hofmann


Since the 18th century, the Swiss Alps and Swiss alpine life have been idealized,
giving rise to the Swiss Alpine myth. In the late 19th century – as a part of the
so-called agrarian revolution – dairy farming was transformed into the main
sector of Swiss agriculture. Unlike in other countries, in Switzerland milk became
available to all social classes and was advertised as the Swiss national drink.
Because milk was associated with the idyllic notion of healthy cows grazing on
lush mountain pastures, dairy products eventually became an integral part of the
Alpine myth. As a result, relatively banal activities such as drinking milk or eating
cheese were subsumed into the Swiss identity. In this paper, the role of primary
school education in this phenomenon is explored and the significance of schooling
in the conceptualization of the ideal Swiss citizen as a milk drinker is analyzed.
Key words: national identity; nutrition; primary school; Switzerland; temperance

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