This thesis defines "federation" as a set of structures and techniques, by means of which the constituent members of a union are given guaranteed access to and are accommodated within the decision-procedure of the centre. Meanwhile, "federalism" is taken to signify the philosophical, or ideological prescription, or promotion, of such a union. The thesis commences by identifying the major shortcomings of the Anglo-Saxon academic literature on federation for a comparative analysis of federalism and federation in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The two main aims of the thesis are then outlined. These are first, to identify the nature of the tradition of federalism in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The second is to illustrate, by reference to the period immediately preceding the crystallisation of the party systems of those countries, the use of federalism as a political ideology. These aims are fulfiled in Parts 2 & 3 of the thesis. By means of its systematic, comparative analysis of federalism in Austria, Switzerland and Germany from the early sixteenth century until 1850, the thesis develops a typology of federalism, which permits it to identify the six “dimensions" of a distinctive, "Germanic”, tradition of federalism. Second, the detailed analysis in the thesis of the use of federalism during the first half of the nineteenth century shows how, within existing federations, a wide range of political groupings constituting the antecedents of modern political parties availed themselves of federalism for the promotion of their political aims. Amongst the conclusions of Part 4 of the thesis is that more attention should be devoted to the study of the interaction of federalism and federation and in particular, to how federalism is utilised by politial parties, both to legitimate and to reform federations.

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