A 19th century map of Geneva looks like an expanding puzzle. 200 years ago, on 16 March 1816, a big piece making up nearly 40 percent of present-day Geneva, was added.
19th century Geneva is marked by four important dates. The first is 31 December 1813, the date it gained independence from Napoleonic France. The second is 19 May 1815, when it became part of Switzerland.
A shadow of its current self
At this time it was much smaller than now. Covering an area of 124 square kilometers, 44% of its current area, it included only 14 of today’s 45 communes. These were the commune of Geneva – Ville de Genève as opposed to Canton de Genève, and its three neighbours: Vandoeuvres, Chênes-Bougeries and Cologny, a geographically disconnected bunch of six western communes (Satigny, Dardagny, Russin, Cartigny, Avully, Chancy), and four isolated communes: Jussy, Gy, Gentod and Cèligny, an enclave of Geneva surrounded by the canton of Vaud that is still cut off from the rest of the canton.
A bit cut off
In early 1815, Geneva ended at Chemin de l’Imperatrice on the edge of Geneva’s botanic gardens, just beyond the United Nations’ Palais des Nations.
The eight kilometres from Geneva’s border to the edge of the canton of Vaud, the Swiss border, was all part of France.
Except for the enclave of Cèligny, Geneva was part of Switzerland but not connected to it.
Breakfast in France, supper in Geneva
Geneva’s next big date was 20 November 1815.
Building on progress made at the Congress of Vienna, a treaty signed in Paris, added 49 square kilometers to Geneva, 18% of it’s current territory. On that day, the 3,343 residents of the seven communes of Versoix, Collex-Bossey, Bellevue, Pregny-Chambesy, Le Grand-Saconnex, Meyrin and Vernier had breakfast in Gex, France, and supper in the Republic of Geneva.
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These new additions lay contiguously between Geneva’s old border and the canton of Vaud. Now Geneva was connected to Switzerland.
A final growth spurt
Geneva’s fourth, and most significant border-burgeoning moment, came on 16 March 1816, when Savoy ruler Victor Emmanuel I, signed the treaty of Turin. The treaty’s negotiations, led by Charles Pictet de Rochemont, added a whopping 109 square kilometres to the canton.
The 24 new communes included a bunch of 14, lying south of the Rhône (Avusy, Laconnex, Soral, Aire-la-Ville, Bernex, Onex, Confignon, Lancy, Perly-Certoux, Bardonnex, Plan-las-Ouates, Troinex, Carouge, Veyrier), and ten on the southern side of the lake (Hermance, Anière, Corsier, Collonge-Bellerive, Meinier, Choulex, Chêne-bourg, Thônex, Pressing, Puplinge).
Une pierre deux coups
16 March 1816 was a huge day for Geneva and the 12,700 people of the 24 communes that joined. Geneva’s new residents on 20 November 1815 only became part of the canton. 1816’s new-comers simultaneously became residents of the Republic of Geneva, and of the Swiss confederation.
Now that probably warrants a double toast.
Map showing Geneva’s expansion (Tribune de Genève)
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