Heinrich Zschokke

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Johann Heinrich Daniel Zschokke (22 March 1771 – 27 June 1848) was a German author and reformer. Most of his life was spent, and most of his reputation earned, in Switzerland. He had an extensive civil service career, and wrote histories, fiction and other works which were widely known.



Youth and early career in Prussia

Born in Magdeburg, Prussia, he was educated at the monasterial (Kloster) school and at the Altstädter Gymnasium there. He ran away from school at 17,[1] and spent some time as playwright with a company of strolling actors. Later, he studied philosophy, theology and history at the University of Frankfurt (Oder), where in 1792 he established himself as a Privatdozent.

While a Privatdozent, Zschokke created a sensation by publishing the extravagant novel, Abällino, der grosse Bandit (1793; subsequently also dramatized), modelled on Schiller's Die Räuber, and the melodramatic tragedy Julius von Sassen (1796).

Move to Switzerland

The Prussian government declined to make him a full professor, and in 1796 Zschokke settled in Switzerland, where he conducted an educational institution in the castle of Reichenau. The authorities of Graubünden granted him citizenship, and in 1798 he published his Geschichte des Freistaates der drei Bünde im hohen Rätien (Rhaetia). The political disturbances of this year compelled him to close his institution.

Civil service

He was, however, sent as a deputy to Aarau, where he was appointed president of the educational department. Soon afterward, the Helvetic executive directory sent him as government commissioner to Unterwalden for the purpose of restoring tranquility.[2] His authority was ultimately extended over the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Zug. Zschokke distinguished himself by the vigour of his administration and by the enthusiasm with which he devoted himself to the interests of the poorer classes of the community. In 1800, he reorganized the institutions of the Italian cantons and was appointed lieutenant-governor of the canton of Basel.

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