UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Promoting the "classroom and playground of Europe": Swiss private school prospectuses and education-focused tourism guides, 1890-1945 Swann, Michelle


Since the late nineteenth century, Switzerland, a self-professed “playground” and “classroom” of the world, has successfully promoted itself as a desirable destination for international study and tourism. The historically entangled private schooling and tourism industries have steadily communicated idealised images of educational tourism in Switzerland via advertising. Concentrating on the period 1890 -1945 – when promotional ties between tourism organisations and private schools solidified – this thesis investigates the social construction of educational tourist place in two different types of promotion aimed at English-speaking markets: private international school prospectuses and education-focused tourism brochures. An analysis of early prospectuses from three long-standing private international schools and of education-focused tourism guides written by municipal organisations, travel agencies, school boards and the Swiss government revealed highly visual, ideologically-charged textual representations of locations and markets simultaneously defined, idealised and commodified international education in Switzerland. Chapters provide close interpretation of documents and aim, through thick description, to understand specific place-making examples within a wider socio-historical context. Chapter One examines the earliest prospectuses of Le Rosey and Brillantmont, two of the world’s must exclusive Swiss schools (1890-1916). An examination of photo-essay style prospectuses reveals highly selective portrayals of “Château” architecture communicated capacity to deliver a “high-class” and gender appropriate Swiss finishing. Visual cues hallmarking literary and sporting preferences indicated texts catered to the gaze of social-climbing, Anglo-centric markets desirous a continental cosmopolitan education that was not overly “foreign.” Chapter Two analyses the social construction of towns in French-speaking Switzerland as attractive educational centres (1890-1914). It explores how guides promoting Geneva, Neuchâtel and Lausanne constructed an idealised study-abroad landscape through thematic testaments to the educative capacities of local human and natural landscapes. The remaining chapters explore interwar texts. Chapter Three examines a high-altitude institute’s use of the idealising skills of high-end tourism poster artists to manufacture a pleasant, school-like image for the mountain sanatoria-like campus of Beau Soleil. Chapter Four investigates two series of education-focused tourism guidebooks which promoted education in Switzerland. An examination of a Swiss National Tourist Office series reveals discourses of nationhood racialised the Swiss as natural-born pedagogues and constructed Switzerland as a safe, moral destination populated by cooperative, multi-lingual and foreign student-friendly folk. An analysis of R. Perrin Travel Agency’s series explores guidebooks which openly classified education as a tourism commodity. The final chapter examines Le Rosey and Brillantmont’s interwar prospectuses within the context of complex, transnational schooling and school advertising practices. An analysis of images of school sports at winter holiday resorts suggests prospectuses expressed the sense of freedom which accompanies upper-class identity more so than any sense of gender-driven restriction.

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