Switzerland History - History

Switzerland History - History

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Switzerland was the Roman province of Helvetica. In 1291 three independent cantons came together to form an alliance against the expansion of the Hapsburg power. The league slowly grew to 22 states in 1815. In 1648 The Treaty of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years war officially recognized the independence of Switzerland. Switzerland has guarded its neutrality in the many wars the racked Europe ever since 1648.

Assorted References

Switzerland’s history is one of a medieval defensive league formed during a time and in an area lacking imperial authority. The different cantons (traditionally called Orte in German) were to a large extent independent states that remained united through the shared defense of…

…the Belgian provinces, Savoy, and Switzerland and the trade relations between Britain and the French-controlled European continent. Notwithstanding military reverses overseas, France and its allies recovered most of their colonies, though Britain retained Trinidad (taken from Spain) and Ceylon (taken from the Dutch). France recognized the Republic of the Seven…

…the political capital of the Swiss Confederation in 1848.

…the member states of the Swiss Confederation was averted. When the five rural cantons of the federation—Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Glarus—concluded a treaty of common citizenship between themselves and the bishopric of Constance (1477), the three other, urban cantons—Luzern, Bern, and Zürich—retorted by concluding a similar treaty for themselves…

…a long series of accessions, Switzerland grew to statehood. The league was concluded by the representatives of three districts, Uri, Schwyz, and Nidwalden, for self-defense against all who might attack or trouble them. The league’s formation was prompted by the death (July 15, 1291) of Rudolf I of Habsburg, who…

Admitted into the Swiss Confederation in 1815, Genève was increased in 1815–16 by adding to the old territory belonging to the city 16 communes (to the south and east) ceded by Savoy and 6 communes (to the north) from the French district of Gex. The population, about one-third…

…constituting the greater part of Switzerland, founded on March 29, 1798, after the country had been conquered by Revolutionary France. The new republic excluded both Geneva, which was annexed to France (April 1798), and the three provinces of Valtellina, Chiavenna, and Bormio, which went to the Italian Cisalpine Republic. In…

…reality from 1315 onward (see Switzerland: Expansion and Position of Power), were finally renounced in 1474 and Frederick’s control over the Austrian inheritance itself was long precarious, not only because of aggression from Hungary but also because of dissension between him and his Habsburg kinsmen. Yet Frederick, one of whose…

Further, in May 1512, 20,000 Swiss troops entered Italy on the papal side, and the French army was recalled to repel invasions of Navarre (Navarra) by the Spanish and of Normandy and Guyenne by the English. Francis I (ruled 1515–47), who succeeded his cousin and father-in-law, Louis XII, reopened hostilities…

It was admitted to the Swiss Confederation in 1815 as the 21st canton and the only nonrepublican member, its hereditary rulers the last to maintain their position in Switzerland. A republican form of government was established by a peaceful revolution in 1848, and after long negotiations and several attempts at…

…legal system in all the Swiss cantons, particularly highlighting two features: safety on the highways for traders and nonintervention by foreign priests. Bruno Brun, a provost wanting to escape punishment, was the catalyst for an amendment in the Zürich constitution, which ruled against the foreign clergy exercising jurisdiction while in…

… (1484–1531), the great figure in Swiss Protestantism before Calvin, was more committed to military action than Müntzer and died in battle. He became a reformer independently of Luther, with whom he agreed concerning justification by faith and predestination, but with whom he disagreed concerning the rite of communion. The Lord’s…

…in the Reformation in 16th-century Switzerland. Reformed is the term identifying churches regarded as essentially Calvinistic in doctrine. The term presbyterian designates a collegial type of church government by pastors and by lay leaders called elders, or presbyters, from the New Testament term presbyteroi. Presbyters govern through a series of…

…when it was revealed that Swiss banks had laundered Nazi gold (much of it likely confiscated from Jews) during World War II and had failed to return money to Jewish depositors after the war, international criticism and demands for restitution provoked increased anti-Semitism in Switzerland. In postcommunist Russia, political opposition…

The Swiss government and its bankers had to confront their role as bankers to the Nazis and in recycling gold and valuables taken from the victims. Under the leadership of German Prime Minister Gerhard Schröder, German corporations and the German government established a fund to compensate…

…1845, by the seven Catholic Swiss cantons (Luzern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, Fribourg, and Valais) to oppose anti-Catholic measures by Protestant liberal cantons. The term Sonderbund also refers to the civil war that resulted from this conflict.

Swiss history, a long territorial dispute that gave rise to the Old Zürich War (1436–50) and the Second Villmergen War (1712). In the Middle Ages the counts of Toggenburg, as vassals of the German kings or Holy Roman emperors, held extensive possessions in what is…

…of the Netherlands and the Swiss Confederation as independent republics, thus formally recognizing a status which those two states had actually held for many decades. Apart from these territorial changes, a universal and unconditional amnesty to all those who had been deprived of their possessions was declared, and it was…

…most important reformer in the Swiss Protestant Reformation. He founded the Swiss Reformed Church and was an important figure in the broader Reformed tradition. Like Martin Luther, he accepted the supreme authority of the Scriptures, but he applied it more rigorously and comprehensively to all doctrines and practices.

Battle of Morgarten

…great military success of the Swiss Confederation in its struggle against the Austrian Habsburgs. When the men of Schwyz, a member state of the confederation, raided the neighbouring Abbey of Einsiedeln early in 1314, the Habsburg duke Leopold I of Austria, who claimed jurisdiction in the area, raised an army…

…Battle of Morgarten in 1315, Swiss Eidgenossen, or “oath brothers,” learned that an unarmoured man with a 7-foot (200-cm) halberd could dispatch an armoured man-at-arms. Displaying striking adaptability, they replaced some of their halberds with the pike, an 18-foot spear with a small piercing head. No longer outreached by the…


Switzerland, located in the heart of Europe, is among the small nations of the world. It is 41,300 square kilometers and shares its borders and its three main languages with Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. The Helvetic Confederation, the Latin name for Switzerland, can be divided into three natural regions: the Jura mountains in the northwest, the central lowlands between the Lake of Constance and Lake of Geneva, and the Alps in the south and east. Although the Alps and the Jura Mountains cover more than half of Switzerland, most of the Swiss people live between the two mountain ranges. The estimated population in 1998 was 7,374,000, including foreign workers, who made up almost 19 percent of the population. In the central lowlands are most of Switzerland's industries and its richest farmlands. Switzerland's capital city, Bern, and its largest city, Zurich, are located in this area. The population, with a density of 179 people per square kilometer is 68 percent urban and 32 percent rural.

The population is divided between three major and one minor language groups. According to the 1990 census of the resident population, 63.7 percent spoke German, 19.2 percent French, 7.6 percent Italian, 0.6 percent Romansch, and 8.9 percent other languages. German, French, and Italian are deemed official languages, whereas Romansch, which is spoken by less than 1 percent of the population in the Grisons, is considered a national language. With regard to religion, in 1990 some 46.1 percent of the population were Roman Catholics, 40 percent were Protestants, 5 percent belonged to other denominations, and 8.9 percent were "nonreligious."

Switzerland has limited natural resources, but it is a very affluent industrial nation. Using imported raw materials, the Swiss manufacture high-quality goods including electrical equipment, machine tools, and watches. They also produce chemicals, drugs, chocolate, cheese, and other diary products.

The Swiss have a long tradition of freedom. The Swiss Confederation was created over 700 years ago in what is now central Switzerland. The original defensive alliance formed in 1291 of the three mountain cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, gradually increased to 13 by 1513. Similar to other parts of central Europe, education started in church schools, which were primarily dedicated to training the clergy. It was not until the late Middle Ages that schools for reading and writing for more practical purposes were established in some towns. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era education was largely the privilege of the upper classes of society. As part of the new democratic system, elementary schools were established at the end of the eighteenth century. These schools provided education for a much broader cross-section of the population.

Education has played a very important role in the Swiss Confederation. The Swiss Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) developed many of the basic pedagogical approaches and teacher training principles that are used in many western countries of the world. Pestalozzi's ideas spread as far as the United States by the 1860s, and his theories influenced Friedrich Froebel, the German founder of the first kindergartens, as well as many other educators and philosophers. A report on Popular Education in France from 1861 that also analyzed Popular Education in Switzerland commented on the quality of Swiss schools.

The principle of direct democracy is an important part of Swiss democracy and firmly rooted in the federal constitution. The electorate frequently votes, either to elect representatives or to vote on initiatives or referendums. Decentralization and direct democracy are also an important part of the education system. Education has remained primarily the responsibility of the cantons (states) and municipalities. Switzerland is made up of 26 cantons, which enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy. The cantons are further divided into communes or municipalities, approximately 3,000 in all.

Paleolithic Edit

A hand-axe fashioned by Homo erectus has been found in Pratteln, which has been dated to 300,000 years ago. [1] Neanderthal presence is known from the Grotte de Cotencher in Neuchatel, dating to 70,000 years ago [2] and from the caves of Wildkirchli in the Appenzell Alps, dated to about 40,000 years ago. [3] Anatomically modern humans reached Central Europe 30,000 years ago, [4] but most of what is now Switzerland was covered by glaciers during the Last Glacial Maximum (Würm glaciation). The ice-free parts, northern Switzerland along the High Rhine and part of the Aar basin, were exposed to permafrost. Human habitation in the Swiss plateau can be shown for the beginning Mesolithic, in Wetzikon-Robenhausen beginning around 10,000 years ago.

Neolithic to Bronze Age Edit

The Neolithic reaches the Swiss plateau before 7,000 years ago (late 6th millennium BC), dominated by the Linear Pottery culture. The area was relatively densely populated, as is attested to by the many archeological findings from that period. Remains of pile dwellings have been found in the shallow areas of many lakes. Artifacts dated to the 5th millennium BC were discovered at the Schnidejoch in 2003 to 2005. [5]

In the 3rd millennium BC, Switzerland lay on the south-western outskirts of the Corded Ware horizon, entering the early Bronze Age (Beaker culture) in step with Central Europe, in the late centuries of the 3rd millennium.

The first Indo-European settlement likely dates to the 2nd millennium, at the latest in the form of the Urnfield culture from c. 1300 BC. The pre-Indo-European population of the Alpine region is typified by Ötzi the Iceman, an individual of the late 4th millennium BC found in the Austrian Alps (some 25 km east of the Swiss border).

Iron Age Edit

The Swiss plateau lay in the western part of the Early Iron Age Halstatt culture, [6] and it participated in the early La Tène culture (named for the type site at Lake Neuchatel) which arose out of the Hallstatt background from the 5th century BC. [7]

By the final centuries BC, the Swiss plateau and Ticino were settled by Continental Celtic speaking peoples (Gauls): the Helvetii and Vindelici inhabited the western and eastern part of the Swiss plateau, respectively, and the Lugano area by the Lepontii. The interior Alpine valleys of eastern Switzerland (Grisons) were inhabited by the non-Celtic Raetians.

The distribution of La Tène culture burials in Switzerland indicates that the Swiss plateau between Lausanne and Winterthur was relatively densely populated. Settlement centres existed in the Aare valley between Thun and Bern, and between Lake Zurich and the Reuss. The Valais and the regions around Bellinzona and Lugano also seem to have been well-populated however, those lay outside the Helvetian borders.

Almost all the Celtic oppida were built in the vicinity of the larger rivers of the Swiss plateau. About a dozen oppida are known in Switzerland (some twenty including uncertain candidate sites), not all of which were occupied during the same time. For most of them, no contemporary name has survived in cases where a pre-Roman name has been recorded, it is given in brackets. [8] The largest were the one in Berne-Engehalbinsel (presumably Brenodurum, the name recorded on the Berne zinc tablet [9] ), on the Aare, and the one in Altenburg-Rheinau on the Rhine. Of intermediate size were those of Bois de Châtel, Avenches (abandoned with the foundation of Aventicum as the capital of the Roman province), Jensberg (near vicus Petinesca, Mont Vully, all within a day's march from the one in Berne, the Oppidum Zürich-Lindenhof at the Zürichsee–Limmat–Sihl triangled Lindenhof hill, and the Oppidum Uetliberg, overlooking the Sihl and Zürichseee lake shore. Smaller oppida were at Genève (Genava), Lausanne (Lousonna) on the shores of Lake Geneva, at Sermuz on the upper end of Lake Neuchatel, at Eppenberg and Windisch (Vindonissa) along the lower Aar, and at Mont Chaibeuf and Mont Terri in the Jura mountains, the territory of the Rauraci.

A female who died in about 200 B.C found buried in a carved tree trunk during a construction project at the Kern school complex in March 2017 in Aussersihl. Archaeologists revealed that she was approximately 40 years old when she died and likely carried out little physical labor when she was alive. A sheepskin coat, a belt chain, a fancy wool dress, a scarf and a pendant made of glass and amber beads were also discovered with the woman. [10] [11] [12]

In 58 BCE, the Helvetii tried to evade migratory pressure from Germanic tribes by moving into Gaul, but were stopped and defeated at Bibracte (near modern-day Autun) by Julius Caesar's armies and then sent back. In 15 BCE, Tiberius and Drusus conquered the Alps, and the region became integrated into the Roman Empire: [13] the Helvetii settlement area became part first of Gallia Belgica and later of the province of Germania Superior, while the eastern part was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia.

The following 300 years saw extensive Roman settlement, including the construction of a road network and the founding of many settlements and cities. The center of Roman occupation was at Aventicum (Avenches), other cities were founded at Arbor Felix (Arbon), Augusta Raurica (Kaiseraugst near Basel), Basilea (Basel), Curia (Chur), Genava (Genève), Lousanna (Lausanne), Octodurum (Martigny, controlling the pass of the Great St. Bernard), Salodurum (Solothurn), Turicum (Zürich) and other places. Military garrisons existed at Tenedo (Zurzach) and Vindonissa (Windisch). [13]

The Romans also developed the Great St. Bernard Pass beginning in the year 47, and in 69 part of the legions of Vitellius used it to traverse the Alps. The passes were expanded from dirt trails to narrow paved roads. [13] Between 101 and 260, the legions moved out of the region, allowing trade to expand. In Raetia, Roman culture and language became dominant. [13] Nearly 2,000 years later, some of the population of Graubünden still speak Romansh which is descended from Vulgar Latin.

In 259, Alamanni tribes overran the Limes and caused widespread devastation of Roman cities and settlements. The Roman empire managed to reestablish the Rhine as the border, and the cities on Swiss territory were rebuilt. However, it was now a frontier province, and consequently the new Roman cities were smaller and much more fortified.

In the late Roman period in the 3rd and 4th centuries, the Christianization of the region began. Legends of Christian martyrs such as Felix and Regula in Zürich probably are based on events that occurred during the persecution of Christians under Diocletian around 298. The story of the Theban Legion, which was martyred near Saint Maurice-en-Valais in Valais, figures into the histories of many towns in Switzerland. [13]

The first bishoprics were founded in the 4th and 5th centuries in Basel (documented in 346), Martigny (doc. 381, moved to Sion in 585), Geneva (doc. 441), and Chur (doc. 451). There is evidence from the 6th century for a bishopric in Lausanne, which maybe had been moved from Avenches.

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Germanic tribes moved in. Burgundians settled in the Jura, the Rhône valley and the Alps south of Lake Geneva while in the north, Alamannic settlers crossed the Rhine in 406 and slowly assimilated the Gallo-Roman population, or made it retreat into the mountains. Burgundy became a part of the Frankish kingdom in 534 two years later, the dukedom of Alemannia followed suit.

The Burgundy kings furthered the Christianization through newly founded monasteries, e.g. at Romainmôtier or St. Maurice in the Valais in 515. In the Alaman part, only isolated Christian communities continued to exist the Germanic faith including the worship of Wuodan was prevalent. The Irish monks Columbanus and Gallus re-introduced Christian faith in the early 7th century. The Bishopric of Konstanz also was founded at that time.

Early Middle Ages Edit

Under the Carolingian kings, the feudal system proliferated, and monasteries and bishoprics were important bases for maintaining the rule. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 assigned the western part of modern Switzerland (Upper Burgundy) to Lotharingia, ruled by Lothair I, and the eastern part (Alemannia) to the eastern kingdom of Louis the German that would become the Holy Roman Empire. The boundary between Alamania, ruled by Louis, and western Burgundy, ruled by Lothar, ran along the lower Aare, turning towards the south at the Rhine, passing west of Lucerne and across the Alps along the upper Rhône to Saint Gotthard Pass.

Louis the German in 853 granted his lands in the Reuss valley to the monastery of St Felix and Regula in Zürich (modern day Fraumünster) of which his daughter Hildegard was the first abbess. [14] According to legend this occurred after a stag bearing an illuminated crucifix between his antlers appeared to him in the marshland outside the town, at the shore of Lake Zürich. However, there is evidence that the monastery was already in existence before 853. The Fraumünster is across the river from the Grossmünster, which according to legend was founded by Charlemagne himself, as his horse fell to his knees on the spot where the martyrs Felix and Regula were buried.

When the land was granted to the monastery, it was exempt from all feudal lords except the king and later the Holy Roman Emperor (a condition known as Imperial immediacy in German Reichsfreiheit or Reichsunmittelbarkeit). The privileged position of the abbey (reduced taxes and greater autonomy) encouraged the other men of the valley to put themselves under the authority of abbey. By doing so they gained the advantages of the Imperial immediacy and grew used to the relative freedom and autonomy. [14] The only source of royal or imperial authority was the advocatus or Vogt of the abbey which was given to one family after another by the emperor as a sign of trust.

In the 10th century, the rule of the Carolingians waned: Magyars destroyed Basel in 917 and St. Gallen in 926, and Saracenes ravaged the Valais after 920 and sacked the monastery of St. Maurice in 939. The Conradines (von Wetterau) started a long time rule over Swabia during this time. Only after the victory of king Otto I over the Magyars in 955 in the Battle of Lechfeld were the Swiss territories reintegrated into the empire.

High Middle Ages Edit

King Rudolph III of the Arelat kingdom (r. 993–1032) gave the Valais as his fiefdom to the Bishop of Sion in 999, and when Burgundy and thus also the Valais became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1032, the bishop was also appointed count of the Valais. The Arelat mostly existed on paper throughout the 11th to 14th centuries, its remnants passing to France in 1378, but without its Swiss portions, Bern and Aargau having come under Zähringer and Habsburg rule already by the 12th century, and the County of Savoy was detached from the Arelat just before its dissolution, in 1361.

The dukes of Zähringen founded many cities, the most important being Freiburg in 1120, Fribourg in 1157, and Bern in 1191. The Zähringer dynasty ended with the death of Berchtold V in 1218, and their cities subsequently thus became independent, while the dukes of Kyburg competed with the house of Habsburg over control of the rural regions of the former Zähringer territory. When the house of Zähringen died out in 1218 the office of Vogt over the Abbey of St Felix and Regula in Zurich was granted to the Habsburgs, however it was quickly revoked. [14]

The rise of the Habsburg dynasty gained momentum when their main local competitor, the Kyburg dynasty, died out and they could thus bring much of the territory south of the Rhine under their control. Subsequently, they managed within only a few generations to extend their influence through Swabia in south-eastern Germany to Austria.

Under the Hohenstaufen rule, the alpine passes in Raetia and the St. Gotthard Pass gained importance. Especially the latter became an important direct route through the mountains. The construction of the "Devil’s Bridge" (Teufelsbrücke) across the Schöllenenschlucht in 1198 led to a marked increase in traffic on the mule track over the pass. Frederick II accorded the Reichsfreiheit to Schwyz in 1240 [14] in the Freibrief von Faenza in an attempt to place the important pass under his direct control, and his son and for some time co-regent Henry VII had already given the same privileges to the valley of Uri in 1231 (the Freibrief von Hagenau). Unterwalden was de facto reichsfrei, since most of its territory belonged to monasteries, which had become independent even earlier in 1173 under Frederick I "Barbarossa" and in 1213 under Frederick II. The city of Zürich became reichsfrei in 1218.

While some of the "Forest Communities" (Waldstätten, i.e. Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden) were reichsfrei the Habsburgs still claimed authority over some villages and much of the surrounding land. While Schwyz was reichsfrei in 1240, the castle of Neu Habsburg was built in 1244 to help control Lake Lucerne and restrict the neighboring Forest Communities. [14] In 1245 Frederick II was excommunicated by Pope Innocent IV at the Council of Lyon. When the Habsburgs took the side of the pope, some of the Forest Communities took Frederick's side. At this time the castle of Neu Habsburg was attacked and damaged. [14] When Frederick failed against the Pope, those who had taken his side were threatened with excommunication and the Habsburgs gained additional power. In 1273 the rights to the Forest Communities were sold by a cadet branch of the Habsburgs to the head of the family, Rudolf I. A few months later he became King of the Romans, a title that would become Holy Roman Emperor. Rudolph was therefore the ruler of all the reichsfrei communities as well as the lands that he ruled as a Habsburg.

He instituted a strict rule in his homelands and raised the taxes tremendously to finance wars and further territorial acquisitions. As king, he finally had also become the direct liege lord of the Forest Communities, which thus saw their previous independence curtailed. On the April 16, 1291 Rudolph bought all the rights over the town of Lucerne and the abbey estates in Unterwalden from Murbach Abbey in Alsace. The Forest Communities saw their trade route over Lake Lucerne cut off and feared losing their independence. When Rudolph died on July 15, 1291 the Communities prepared to defend themselves. On August 1, 1291 an Everlasting League was made between the Forest Communities for mutual defense against a common enemy. [14]

In the Valais, increasing tensions between the bishops of Sion and the Counts of Savoy led to a war beginning in 1260. The war ended after the Battle at the Scheuchzermatte near Leuk in 1296, where the Savoy forces were crushed by the bishop's army, supported by forces from Bern. After the peace of 1301, Savoy kept only the lower part of the Valais, while the bishop controlled the upper Valais.

The 14th century Edit

With the opening of the Gotthard Pass in the 13th century, the territory of Central Switzerland, primarily the valley of Uri, had gained great strategical importance and was granted Reichsfreiheit by the Hohenstaufen emperors. This became the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy, which during the 1330s to 1350s grew to incorporate its core of "eight cantons" (Acht Orte)

The 14th century in the territory of modern Switzerland was a time of transition from the old feudal order administrated by regional families of lower nobility (such as the houses of Bubenberg, Eschenbach, Falkenstein, Freiburg, Frohburg, Grünenberg, Greifenstein, Homberg, Kyburg, Landenberg, Rapperswil, Toggenburg, Zähringen etc.) and the development of the great powers of the late medieval period, primarily the first stage of the meteoric rise of the House of Habsburg, which was confronted with rivals in Burgundy and Savoy. The free imperial cities, prince-bishoprics and monasteries were forced to look for allies in this unstable climate, and entered a series of pacts. Thus, the multi-polar order of the feudalism of the High Middle Ages, while still visible in documents of the first half of the 14th century such as the Codex Manesse or the Zürich armorial gradually gave way to the politics of the Late Middle Ages, with the Swiss Confederacy wedged between Habsburg Austria, the Burgundy, France, Savoy and Milan. Berne had taken an unfortunate stand against Habsburg in the battle of Schosshalde in 1289, but recovered enough to confront Fribourg (Gümmenenkrieg) and then to inflict a decisive defeat on a coalition force of Habsburg, Savoy and Basel in the battle of Laupen in 1339. At the same time, Habsburg attempted to gain influence over the cities of Lucerne and Zürich, with riots or attempted coups reported for the years 1343 and 1350 respectively. This situation led the cities of Lucerne, Zürich and Berne to attach themselves to the Swiss Confederacy in 1332, 1351, and 1353 respectively.

As elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland suffered a crisis in the middle of the century, triggered by the Black Death followed by social upheaval and moral panics, often directed against the Jews as in the Basel massacre of 1349. To this was added the catastrophic 1356 Basel earthquake which devastated a wide region, and the city of Basel was destroyed almost completely in the ensuing fire.

The balance of power remained precarious during the 1350s to 1380s, with Habsburg trying to regain lost influence Albrecht II besieged Zürich unsuccessfully, but imposed an unfavourable peace on the city in the treaty of Regensburg. In 1375, Habsburg tried to regain control over the Aargau with the help of Gugler mercenaries. After a number of minor clashes (Sörenberg, Näfels), it was with the decisive Swiss victory at the battle of Sempach 1386 that this situation was resolved. Habsburg moved its focus eastward and while it continued to grow in influence (ultimately rising to the most powerful dynasty of Early Modern Europe), it lost all possessions in its ancestral territory with the Swiss annexation of the Aargau in 1416, from which time the Swiss Confederacy stood for the first time as a political entity controlling a contiguous territory.

Meanwhile, in Basel, the citizenry was also divided into a pro-Habsburg and an anti-Habsburg faction, known as Sterner and Psitticher, respectively. The citizens of greater Basel bought most of the privileges from the bishop in 1392, even though Basel nominally remained the domain of the prince-bishops until the Reformation it was de facto governed by its city council, since 1382 dominated by the city's guilds, from this time. Similarly, the bishop of Geneva granted the citizenry substantial political rights in 1387. Other parts of western Switzerland remained under the control of Burgundy and Savoy throughout the 14th century the Barony of Vaud was incorporated into Savoy in 1359 and was annexed by Berne only in the context of the Swiss Reformation, in 1536.

In the Valais, the bishop of Sion, allied with Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy, was in conflict of the Walser-settled upper Valais during the 1340s. Amadeus pacified the region in 1352, but there was renewed unrest in 1353. In 1355, the towns of the upper Valais formed a defensive pact and negotiated a compromise peace treaty in 1361, but there was a renewed uprising with the 1383 accession of Amadeus VII, Count of Savoy. Amadeus invaded the Valais in 1387, but after his death in a hunting accident, his mother, Bonne de Bourbon, made peace with the Seven Tithings of the upper Valais, restoring the status quo ante of 1301. From this time, the upper Valais was mostly independent de facto, preparing the Republican structure that would emerge in the early modern period. In the Grisons, similar structures of local self-government arose at the same time, with the League of God's House founded in 1367, followed by the Grey League in 1395, both in response to the expansion of the House of Habsburg.

Medieval period

On 1 August of 1291, representatives of three forest cantons (Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden) signed the Federal Declaration, which is accepted as the founding document of Switzerland. Today, August 1 is celebrated as a national holiday.

Today, August 1 is celebrated as a national holiday.

Swiss Federal Declaration | Brief History of Switzerland

In 1353, in addition to these three forest cantons that united for the first time, the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the city-states of Lucerne, Zurich, and Bern joined the union, and the “Old Federation” consisting of eight states was established.

Meanwhile, Zurich was expelled from the confederation in 1440 due to a territorial dispute but was later taken back. Later on, other cantons started to join the federation one by one. The independence of Switzerland, which was a state under the Holy Roman Empire until 1648, was recognized by the European countries with the Westphalian Peace Treaty.

As additional information, the Swiss soldiers were so disciplined and successful that the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church of the time II. Julius hired Swiss soldiers as guards to protect the Vatican. The Swiss soldiers are still responsible for protecting the Vatican.

Switzerland History

Switzerland history is about as interesting as history gets. Like all of the countries in Europe, Switzerland has been home to human activity for more than 100,000 years. Many of the people who inhabited modern-day Switzerland in the early years didn't establish permanent settlements. As far as the first farming settlements are concerned, the earliest known examples date back to around 5300 BC. The first group to identifiably inhabit what is now Switzerland, however, were the Celts, who were moving east at the time. This occurred around 15 BC, which is also when the Roman ruler, Tiberius I, conquered the Alps. The Celts occupied the western part of Switzerland, while the eastern half became part of a Roman province that was named Raetia.

In terms of interesting facts about Switzerland, it is worth noting that the Romans conquered the various tribes that had taken up residence in the country in and around 15 BC. The Roman colonization of Swiss lands would last up until 455 AD, which is when the Barbarians decided to invade. Not long after the Barbarians conquered the Romans, the Christians would move in. During the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, the Swiss territory became part of the Frankish Empire. It was none other than Charlemagne who eventually conquered the various cantons in Switzerland, and he did so in 843. The Swiss lands would be divided until 1,000 AD, which is the year that they joined the Holy Roman Empire and became unified.

There aren't a lot of historical attractions that date back to the Roman days in Switzerland, though visitors can visit some interesting ruins that offer insight into early Swiss history. Near the city of Basel, some of the most interesting Roman ruins can be found. This site, which is known as Augusta Raurica, is only about seven miles from the city, and among its highlights are some fascinating ruins and an excellent museum. Two other attractions that offer insight into the storied history of Switzerland are the Grossmunster Cathedral and the Fraumunster Church, both of which can be found in Zurich. These cathedrals have been renovated and partially rebuilt since their creation, though they originally date back to the days when Switzerland was little more than a chess piece in the strategic game of European domination.

Switzerland Map

Looking at the historical facts about Switzerland, how often this country changed hands starts to stand out. The lands that we know as Switzerland today fell into the hands of the Houses of Savoy and the Hapsburgs, among other ruling factions. By the end of the thirteenth century, however, the seed of independence was sewn. In the year 1291, some of the cantons in Switzerland formed an alliance, which was the impetus for the push towards sovereignty. After breaking from the Holy Roman Empire in 1439, the Perpetual Alliance, as this alliance of cantons was known, signed a treaty with France that proved to cause some significant turmoil within the Swiss borders. In the early sixteenth century, what amounts to a civil war of sorts broke out in Switzerland due to some of the agreements between the alliance and France. One of the more interesting dates in Swiss history is 1516. This was the year that the alliance decided to declare their neutrality. To this day, Switzerland maintains a neutral stance in terms of world affairs. The country has not gone to war since 1815, and interestingly enough, it was one of the last countries to join the United Nations.

Before Switzerland joined the United Nations, it became a center for the Protestant Reformation, which led to numerous wars, such as the Battles of Villmergen, which took place in 1656 and 1712. In 1798, Switzerland was conquered by the French Revolution. The Swiss refused to fight alongside the French troops of Napolean once the Russian and Austrian forces arrived, however, and Swiss autonomy was reestablished shortly thereafter. The Congress of Vienna set the borders of Switzerland as they are known today in the year of 1814. This is one of the more interesting facts about Switzerland. One of the other more interesting years in Swiss history is 1848. This was the year that the country adopted its federal constitution, naming Bern as the capital in the process. The development of the country would begin not long afterward. In the late 1800s, tourism really started to take off in Switzerland, and the rest of the world started taking notice of how beautiful the country is. The Swiss Alps cover most of the country, and they are among the most picturesque mountains in the world.

Switzerland history is full of interesting facts, and one could study it for years if they were so inclined. For travelers, visiting some of the country's historical attractions is one of the best ways to embrace Swiss history. In Bern, two of the more interesting historical attractions include the Zytglogge and the Munster. The former is a medieval clock tower that features moving puppets and a fifteenth-century astronomical clock. As for the Munster, it is a fifteenth-century Gothic cathedral that is noted for its complete main portal, its soaring tower, and its valuable stained-glass windows. Another good way to gain insight into the history of Switzerland is to visit some museums while in the country. The Bern Historical Museum is a good place to learn about the capital, and most of the other cities and towns in the country offers their own history museums. Learning as much as possible about Swiss history before visiting the country is a good idea. It helps travelers better appreciate the attractions, the culture, and the people.

Switzerland — History and Culture

Switzerland’s history and culture has been largely characterized by its land-locked geographic position. The country has staunchly remained neutral as its bordering nations were mired by war, and this neutrality continues to characterize Switzerland today. The country’s language and cuisine has, however, been heavily influenced by its neighbors, with many regions boasting a distinctly German, French or Italian vibe.


Early civilization in Switzerland dates back to the Bronze Age, but the first true colonization occured from the Celtic tribes, who came to the area around 500 BC. These groups were known as the Helvetians, which is where "Helvetia" originated from, the name seen today on Swiss coins and stamps. The Helvetians were conquered by the Romans in 58 BC, who settled the cities of Basel, Zurich, Geneva, and Lausanne until about 400 AD. The Romans were subsequently driven out by the Germanic tribes.

In the Middle Ages as with the rest of Europe, Switzerland was mired in feudal rule. The grand monasteries such as the Convent of St. Gallen, were established and built during this time. This is also when the cities of Berne and Lucerne - both of which remain important symbols of medieval architecture - were founded. Still to this day the entire old town of Berne is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The culture in the cities of Switzerland was built around skilled artisans and craftsmen, such as watchmakers, which the country is famous for. This era also established the Swiss Confederacy, what today’s canton system is based upon.

When Reformation swept Europe, Switzerland was divided between the Reformers and Catholics. This era was followed by the occupation by Napoleon, whose downfall led to the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which established Switzerland’s independence. This was followed by the creation of their constitution and the establishment of democracy in 1891.

Switzerland was able to remain neutral and was never attacked during either world war, which is the reason they are one of the few European cities that has managed to keep much of their medieval structures intact. This makes the country a great place to explore. An excellent example is the old town of Berne and the Benedictine Convent of St. John at Muestair.

Modern day Switzerland is surrounded by EU nations, but the country has not entered the EU, mostly due to the fact that Switzerland has maintained its independence throughout history and is reluctant to become a part of any supranational body. Switzerland still uses its own currency, the Swiss franc, but in 2005, they did join the Schengen Treaty, allowing for easy travel within the continent. This move seems to suggest that Switzerland is becoming more accepting of the EU and its structures.


Switzerland’s culture has been strongly influenced by its neighbors, Germany, Italy, France, Liechtenstein, and Austria and different regions have strong ties to the country they border. For example, the western parts of Switzerland have a very French feel, and most residents here speak French and enjoy French cuisine. Switzerland is proud of its diversity.

The country’s trade and industry has grown out of agriculture and its artisan culture. Even today, Switzerland is known for its chocolates and cheeses, as well as high quality watches and knives coveted the world over.

There are many different festivals in Switzerland, which vary by region. One of these is the Fastnacht or carnival, most famous in Basel and Lucerne. An unusual custom is the mask festival that takes place in Loetschental, Canton Valais. In February, men and boys roam the streets wearing hand carved masks and goat skin tunics. Many customs also revolve around agriculture, an important part of the Swiss economy and daily life in the countryside. One of these is the "burning of the Boeoegg" that marks the start of spring.

Why is Switzerland a neutral country?

For centuries, the tiny Alpine nation of Switzerland has adhered to a policy of armed neutrality in global affairs. Switzerland isn’t the world’s only neutral country—the likes of Ireland, Austria and Costa Rica all take similar non-interventionist stances—yet it remains the oldest and most respected. How did it earn its unique place in world politics?

The earliest moves toward Swiss neutrality date to 1515, when the Swiss Confederacy suffered a devastating loss to the French at the Battle of Marignano. Following the defeat, the Confederacy abandoned its expansionist policies and looked to avoid future conflict in the interest of self-preservation. It was the Napoleonic Wars, however, that truly sealed Switzerland’s place as a neutral nation. Switzerland was invaded by France in 1798 and later made a satellite of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire, forcing it to compromise its neutrality. But after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the major European powers concluded that a neutral Switzerland would serve as a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria and contribute to stability in the region. During 1815’s Congress of Vienna, they signed a declaration affirming Switzerland’s “perpetual neutrality” within the international community.

Switzerland maintained its impartial stance through World War I, when it mobilized its army and accepted refugees but also refused to take sides militarily. In 1920, meanwhile, the newly formed League of Nations officially recognized Swiss neutrality and established its headquarters in Geneva. A more significant challenge to Swiss neutrality came during World War II, when the country found itself encircled by the Axis powers. While Switzerland maintained its independence by promising retaliation in the event of an invasion, it continued to trade with Nazi Germany, a decision that later proved controversial after the war ended.


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Switzerland, federated country of central Europe. Switzerland’s administrative capital is Bern, while Lausanne serves as its judicial centre. Switzerland’s small size—its total area is about half that of Scotland—and its modest population give little indication of its international significance.

A landlocked country of towering mountains, deep Alpine lakes, grassy valleys dotted with neat farms and small villages, and thriving cities that blend the old and the new, Switzerland is the nexus of the diverse physical and cultural geography of western Europe, renowned for both its natural beauty and its way of life. Aspects of both have become bywords for the country, whose very name conjures images of the glacier-carved Alps beloved of writers, artists, photographers, and outdoor sports enthusiasts from around the world.

For many outsiders, Switzerland also evokes a prosperous if rather staid and unexciting society, an image that is now dated. Switzerland remains wealthy and orderly, but its mountain-walled valleys are far more likely to echo the music of a local rock band than a yodel or an alphorn. Most Swiss live in towns and cities, not in the idyllic rural landscapes that captivated the world through Johanna Spyri’s Heidi (1880–81), the country’s best-known literary work. Switzerland’s cities have emerged as international centres of industry and commerce connected to the larger world, a very different tenor from Switzerland’s isolated, more inward-looking past. As a consequence of its remarkably long-lived stability and carefully guarded neutrality, Switzerland—Geneva, in particular—has been selected as headquarters for a wide array of governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including many associated with the United Nations (UN)—an organization the Swiss resisted joining until the early 21st century.

Switzerland’s rugged topography and multicultural milieu have tended to emphasize difference. People living in close proximity may speak markedly distinct, sometimes nearly mutually unintelligible dialects of their first language, if not a different language altogether. German, French, Italian, and Romansh all enjoy national status, and English is spoken widely. Invisible lines separate historically Protestant from historically Roman Catholic districts, while the tall mountains of the Saint Gotthard Pass separate northern from southern Europe and their diverse sensibilities and habits. Yet, Switzerland has forged strength from all these differences, creating a peaceful society in which individual rights are carefully balanced against community and national interests.

Switzerland was formed in 1291 by an alliance of cantons against the Habsburg dynasty—the Confoederatio Helvetica (or Swiss Confederation), from which the abbreviation CH for Switzerland derives—though only in 1848, when a new constitution was adopted, was the present nation formed. Prior to 1848, internal conflict was quite common, but Switzerland has enjoyed relative domestic tranquility since the mid-19th century, and its organization has remained essentially the same: it is a union of more than 3,000 communes, or municipalities, situated in 26 cantons, 6 of which are traditionally referred to as demicantons (half cantons) but function as full cantons. Ordinary citizens are able to participate at every level of politics and regularly exercise their will in referenda and initiatives, through which Swiss citizens directly make numerous policy decisions at the national and subnational level. Two effects of this popular involvement are evident: Swiss taxes are rather low by European standards, because voters are able to review and approve a broad range of expenditures, and political decision making tends to be slow, because contending individual claims and opinions must be allowed to be expressed at every step.

That high level of citizen involvement prompted the renowned 20th-century Swiss playwright and ironist Friedrich Dürrenmatt to allegorize Switzerland as a prison in which each Swiss citizen was at the same time prisoner and guard. Even so, the Swiss blend of federalism and direct democracy is unique in the world and is considered central to the country’s political and economic success. And Switzerland is indeed a major economic power, thanks to its long tradition of financial services and high-quality, specialized manufactures of items such as precision timepieces, optics, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, as well as of specialty foodstuffs such as Emmentaler cheese and milk chocolate. Switzerland is regularly judged to have among the world’s highest standards of living.

Bern is a placid city whose name derives from the bear pits the canton’s medieval rulers established there as a heraldic symbol the bear pits are now part of the city’s popular zoo. A metropolis extending along a large lake where the mountains meet the plains, Zürich is by far the country’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, its famed Bahnhofstrasse rivaling shopping districts found in other leading cities in the world. Basel and Lucerne are major German-speaking cities, Geneva and Lausanne the centres of the country’s French-speaking cantons, and Bellinzona and Lugano the principal cities in the Italian-speaking Ticino.

Switzerland has long been a model multiethnic, multilingual society, a place in which diverse peoples can live in social harmony and unite in common interest. The Swiss justifiably take great pride in this, and the point was encapsulated in the early 21st century by Ruth Dreifuss, who in 1999 became the country’s first woman and first Jewish president (a post that rotates annually):

I may be a native speaker of French, but my parents originally came from German-speaking Switzerland and I myself worked in an Italian-speaking area for a while and enjoy travelling to all parts of the country…. I live in a neighbourhood in which over 100 different nationalities live together in peace and harmony…. I greatly appreciate this diversity.

Switzerland is bordered to the west by France, to the north by Germany, to the east by Austria and Liechtenstein, and to the south by Italy. It extends about 135 miles (220 km) from north to south and 220 miles (350 km) at its widest extent from west to east. Switzerland’s landscape is among the world’s most unusual, and it has long had to contend with a variety of environmental problems that threaten its integrity. Economic development and high population density have caused severe environmental stress, resulting in pollution and debates over the use of natural resources. During the 1970s and ’80s, ambitious environmental policies were implemented by the cantons and municipalities, and this led to impressive progress on pollution abatement. For example, air-pollution emissions in Switzerland are among the lowest in industrialized countries.

Switzerland Culture

Religion in Switzerland

Roman Catholic (38%), Protestant (27%), Muslim (5%), Jewish (0.3%) and Atheist (21.4%).

Social Conventions in Switzerland

It is customary to give flowers to the hostess when invited for a meal, but never give chrysanthemums or white asters as they are considered funeral flowers. Informal wear is widely acceptable. First-class restaurants, hotel dining rooms and important social occasions may warrant jackets and ties. Black tie is usually specified when required.

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