Julius Caesar conquered the area of modern Switzerland during the Gallic wars and it was incorporated into the Roman Empire. As a Roman province, the area became highly civilized. Major cities developed (Basel, Geneva and Zurich) whch were linked to each other and Rome by military roads which also served as commercial arteries. As Roman power declined (5th century), the Legions could no longer maintain the borders on the Rhine. Germanic tribes poured into the Empire. The Germanic tribes invaded Switzerland from boh the west and north. Charlemagne added Switzerland to the Frankish Empire (800 AD). After the disolution of the Frankish Empire, Switzerland became ruled by German emperors who eventually became mostly the Austrian Hapsburghs. The three forest cantons of Uri Schwyz and Unterwalden signed the Eternal Alliance (1291). This was a challenge to Hapsburgh rule. The Hapburghs attempted to crush the Swiss revolt, but this proved difficult in the rugged mountaneous territory of Switzerland. The Swiss defeated a Hapsburgh army at the battle of Morgarten (1315). The cost to the Hapsburghs of persuing the war proved not worth the potential prize. The Swiss thus achieved autonomy within the German Empire as the Swiss Confederation. Much of German Switzerland converted to Protestantism during the Reformation. The Thirty Years War destroyed large areas of Germany. Swiss indeopendence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality was recognized by the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the War (1648). Switzerland could not maintain its neutrality as Europe was rocked by the French Revolution. The French Republic conquered Switzerland (1798). Swiss independence was reaffirmed by the Congress of Vienna and the Second Peace of Paris (1815). The Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna agreed to permanently recognize Swiss neutrality. The country was affected by the Revolutions of 1848 which swept Europe. In Switzerland, however, there was not a violent Revolution, but rather a new federal constitution was adopted based on the federal principles of the United States Constitution. The Swiss made major amendedments to the constitution (1874). The changes gave the federal government responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters. Switzeland since the 19th century has gradually developed a prosperous modern economy. The Swiss remained neutral in World War I (1914-18). The League of Nations was based in Geneva. Axis forces surounded Switzerland in World War II (1939-45). There was for a time a danger of a NAZI invasion. Switzeland proved, however, valuable to the NAZI war effort and was not invaded. Switzerlad after the War continued to prosper. It is one of the few European countries that has not joined the European Union. Today the issue of integrating Muslim imigrants has become a major issue.
Northern and southern Europe is divided by the Alps which restricting a geographic barrier to trade and commerce. Switzerland geographical position commanding trade routes over the Alps have played a major role in the country's history and economic development. It has also made the area an important attravtion to major European powers. The mountaneous terraine also proved an assett in Switzerland achieving and maintaining its independemce.
Archaelogists have found evidence of human habitation in Switzerland dating back about 150,000 years. A flint tool has been found which is believed to be about 100,000 years old. The most productive archeological site for early human habitation is Cotencher in Canton Neuchâtel. This was a Neandertal site and hunters there left flint cutting tools in a cave about 60,000 years ago. European farming developed first in the Mediterranean and slowly moved north into central Europe (6th millennium BC). Archaeologists have found a farming site in Switzerland at Gächlingen in Canton Schaffhausen (about 5300 BC). Copper was being worked in Switzerland (3800 BC). Bronze came later (about 2300 BC). This required an important technological step which was presumably imported from the Mediterranean world. This and the need to import tin which was not availableclocally suggests a developed trade network. The Amesbury Archer (often referred to as the King of Stonehenge) whose remains were found near Stonehenge probably came from what is now Switzerland and shows how technology probanly spread in this early era. The iron age reached Switzerland (around 800 BC).
The Celts dominated much of central and Western Europe north of the Alps in the first millenium. They never developed, however, a centralozed state. Migratory Germanic tribes pressured the Gallic Celts living in the Danube regions to the south in search of more secure territory such as the Po Valley. They thus became one of Rome's great adversaries. The Celts sacked Rome (about 390 BC). The Celt were the dominant people in the area of modern Switzerland. Archaelogists have found an important Celtic site at La Tène on Lake Neuchâtel. It was a later Iron Age site (about 450 BC). Archaelohists have found two bridges, a huge cash of iron weapons, in addition to human and animal bones.
The Helvetians were a Celtic tribe which have given their nane to modern Switzerland. The Romans first mention them (late-2nd century BC). This we do not kno if they already lived in the the Swiss plateau area or if they moved in to the area later.
The Truscans or peoples influenced by the Etrucans preceeeded the Romans into what is now Switzerland. The poorly understood Lepontians settled in northern Italy and southern Switzerland (Canton Ticino and the eastern parts of Canton Wallis). Inscriptions on some artefacts are written in Etruscan characters, but thecrelationship with the Ertruscans is not known. Wastern Switzerland was inhabited by the Raetians (Rhetians / Rhaetians) who also seem to be related to the Etruscans, who may have been related to the Etruscans. One of the Roman provinces was Raetia. The Rumantsch language spoken in that area today is sometimes called Raeto-Rumantsch.
Julius Caesar conquered the area of modern Switzerland during the Gallic wars. The Helvetia attempted to escape Roman domination by migrating west. They burned their towns to prevent a return. Julius Caesar defeated them at the battle of Bibracte (58 BC). In a rare approach in ancient history, Caesar forced them back to theirvtowns. His objective was to prevent Germanic tribes from moving southwards and taking their place on the Swiss Plateau. The area was thus incorporated into the Roman Empire. As a Roman province, the area became highly civilized. Maor cities developed (Basel, Geneva and Zurich) whch were linked to each other and Rome by military roads which also served as commercial arteries. As Roman power declined (5th century), the Legions could no longer maintain the borders on the Rhine.
The decline of Roman power led to what Caesar had feared. Germanic tribes poured into the Empire. The Germanic tribes invaded Switzerland from boh the west and north.
Charlemagne added Switzerland to the Frankish Empire (800 AD).
Cities begn to grow in what is now Switzerland as the economic pace of Europe grew (late-middle ages). It is at this time that many of the important Swiss cities were founded. Some ofvthevnew cities were Berne, Lucerne, and Fribourg.
Skilled craftsmen gravitated to the new cities. They specialized in producing a range of high quality goods. This meant that trade became of some importnce in a region in which self-sufficent farmers live independntly in isolated mountain valleys. These ccities also benefitted from a new developing transalpine trading routes linking Italy and the Mediterranen world to the rest of Europe. The Alps were a massive geogrraphic barrier to trade. People from the upper part of Wallis (Rhone valley) devised thectechnology needed to suspend wooden water pipes and catwalks into steep rocks. Some of these people gravitated east and settled in upper Uri and Graubünden [Grisons] (about 1200). The Schöllenen canyon in Uri hadcbeen a major barrier from Lake Lucerne to St. Gotthard pass. This opened an important new trade route atvabout thecsame time that the Renaissance was beginning in Italy and trade expanding.
The counts of Hapsburgs were an aristocratic family whichbiorginally controlled areas of northeastern Switzerland where the ancestrial castle was located. After the disolution of the Frankish Empire, Switzerland came under the jurisdiction of the German (Holy Roman) emperors who eventually became mostly the Austrian Hapsburghs. Hapsburg control of Swiss cantons was, however, not well established beyond their ancestrial land. The Hapburgs were just beginning to developing into an important European royal house. Scattered largely poor Swiss valleys were not of much interest to them. The new developing transalpine trading routes changed the potential value of the Swiss valleys. And as the developing transalpine trading routes increased the economic importance of the region, the Hapsburgs became more interested in exerting their control. German Emperor Friedrich II to reward the Swiss for aid in his military expeditions to Italy exempted the valleys of Uri (1231) and Schwyz (1240) from the jurisdiction of any counts and dukes. They would thus be subject to only Imperial jurusdiction. His successor was Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg, the first Hapsburg emperor and the ruler who laid the foundation for the dynasty by obtaining cintroof Austria. Rudolf died (1291). People in Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden grew concerned that the counts of the rising house of Habsburg would try to expand south and establish control of their cantons.
The creation of Switzerland began with the development of transalpine trading routes. Three small valleys afected by these trading routes had not attracted the attentiin of the dukes and kings that were fashioning the modern shape of Europe. The three forest cantons in central Switzerland (Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden) signed the Eternal Alliance (1291).
They swore to help each other against anyone attempting to subject them. This is referred to as the Oath on Rütli (a meadow on the western shore of Lake Lucerne). The Alliance developed into a loose confederation of what had been largely independent cantons. They would prove to be the nucleus for the future Swiss state. It was a challenge to Hapsburgh rule. The Hapburghs attempted to crush the Swiss revolt, but this proved difficult in the rugged mountaneous territory of Switzerland. The Swiss managed to defeat a large Hapsburgh army at the battle of Morgarten (1315). The Swiss agin repulsed Hapsburg armies at Sempach (1386) and Näfels (1388). They eventually lost their native castle in northern Switzerland.
The Haosburgs probably had the military strength needed to supress the nascent Swiss revolt, although they were not yet the great European power that they became. The cost to the Hapsburghs of pursuing a war in the easily defended Alps proved greater than the potential prize. The Swiss thus achieved autonomy within the German Holy Roman Empire as the Swiss Confederation. It is often called the Old Confederation meaning the state before the French Revoutin and conquest by French revolutinary armies. The Confederacy gradually expanded to include the cities of Zürich and Berne (mid-14th century). This created a rare union at the time of rural and urban communes. They had the statis , all of which had the status of imperial immediacy within the Holy Roman Empire. The Confederation of eight cantons (Acht Orte) by persisted for more than a century managed to be become an establish political entity in the border regions between Francec and Austria. Swiss mlitary success in the Burgundy Wars (1470s) essentially established the Swiss Confederation as a permanrnt independent enity in Europe. This was durther confirmed by the Swabian War (1499). As a result, more cantons joined the Confederation which incrreased to 13 cantons (Dreizehn Orte) (1513).
The Swiss Confederation just before the launching of the Protestt Reformation in Germany, decided on a policy of neutrality (1515). This commitment was made again during the devestating Thirty Years' War (1647). Swiss men with intense religious sentiment served privately as mercenaries in the Italian Wars and ubsequebt wars. The Condeferation, however, officially mauntained its neutrality.
The Swiss Reformation occurred largely independently of the developments in Germany, but for much the same reason. A Swiss pastor Huldreich Zwingli like Luther began annoucing the sale of indulgences (1518). He was apponted rector of the Great Minister of Zurich and began criticising abuses of eclesiastical authority (1519). He would speak whereever he could find an audience, sermons, market place conversatioins, and even in front of the town council. Like Luther hec stressed the Bible as the sole source of religious authority. In Zurich the decissions to break from Roman Cathloic traditions and ultimately the Church itsrelf were taklen by voyes of the town council (1523-25). Under Zwingli's leadership, relics were destroyed, ceremonial processions and the adoratuion of saints ceased, vows of celibacy were revoked, and the elaborate Catholic Mass replaced with a simpler ceremony. The commercial class was Zewingli's strongest source of support and their interest was not only religous, but also a poliitical desire for independence from both Rome and the (German) Holy Roman Empire. Other Swiss towns (Basel and Bern) followed Zurich, but the more conservative peasantry of the forrest cantons remained Catholic. The Swiss central government did not have the strength to enforce religious coinformity. There were two short conflicts between the Protestant and Catholic factions (1529 and 31). Zwingli was killed during the fighting (1531). Neither side prevailed in the fighting. Under the terms of the resulting peace, each canton was allowed to choose its religion. Much of German Switzerland converted to Protestantism. For the most part the Catholics were entrenched in the mountaneous areas of the country and the OProtestants in the heavily pppulated valleus and towns. This basic division basically persists in Switzerland today.
The Thirty Years War destroyed large areas of Germany. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality was recognized by the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the War (1648).
The Swiss Reformation caused serious divisions in the Confederation leading to a Reformed and a Catholic party. The resulting internal divisions paralized the Tagsatzung (federal diet) asa result of hostilities between the two factions.
Switzerland could not maintain its neutrality as Europe was rocked by the French Revolution. The French Republic conquered Switzerland (1798). The French ruked it as the Helvetic Republic. Swiss independence was regained with the fall of Napoleon (1814) and reaffirmed by the Congress of Vienna and the Second Peace of Paris (1815). The Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna agreed to permanently recognize Swiss neutrality.
Switzerland was affected by the Revolutions of 1848 which swept Europe. In Switzerland, however, there was not a violent Revolution, but rather a new federal constitution was adopted based on the federal principles of the United States Constitution. It was thus only in 1848 that Switzerland began to achieve its moderm state. Switzerland emerged from the tumultuous year as a ore centralised federal state. This aided its economic development and ended any possibility that Switzerland might desintegrate into rival language/cultural areas.
Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman who became a social activist, witnessed the Battle of Solferino during the Franco-Austrian War (1859). He published a book Un Souvenir de Solferino addressing the need to protect the sick and wounded during combat. The Société genevoise d'utilité publique (Geneva Public Welfare Society) established a committee of five Swiss citizens to pursue the ideas in Durant's book (1863). The committe called for an international meeting. Sixteen nations attended the meeting and adopted a series od resolutions including the internatuinslly recognized Red Cross symbol--the reverse of the Swiss flag (1863). One resolution appealed to countries to organize voluntary national societies.
The Swiss made major amendedments to the constitution (1874). The changes gave the federal government responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters. Switzeland since the 19th century has gradually developed a prosperous modern economy.
Switzerland by the time of World War I had a long tradition of neutrality. The Swiss military was decidedly pro-German. The Swiss passed military intelligence to the Germans. The country, however, remained neutral throughout World War I (1914-18). The War had, however, a significant impact on Swiss society and the economy. Existing tensions in Swiss society were exacerbated. Swiss neutrality was an armed neutrality. Many of the men mobilized for active military service were workers. These conscripts recieved very low wages. As a result their families suffered and often went they returned home they found that their employers had replaced them. This created considerable resentment among workers. Switzerland's population is mostly French or German speaking. These two communities generally favored the German and French sides and divisions between the two communities developed. The French community was outraged at the Government's pro-German bias. The Swiss foreign minister had to resign when the press reported that he was trying to negotiate a peace settlement between Germany and the revolutionary regime in Russia that replaced the Tsar (1917). The cost of supporting a substantial military force on the border was a burden to the economy as were refugees from the beligerant countries. Discontented workers were radicalized by the Russian socialist revolutionaries (Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev) who received asylum in Russia. Workers were also incouraged by the news of the successful Revolution in Russia. A general strike fueled by worker resentment occurred at the end of the War (November 11). The Federal Council finally deployed the army and the strike failed (November 13). The Government rejected the workers demands. Political changes resulted from fear of another general strike. The workers had demanded proportional representation. A system of majority voting effectively excluded the pro-worker Socialist Party from real influence. This was finally adopted by a 1919 referendum. As a result of greater worker influence, the Swiss Government began to adopt important welfare programs as well as a 48 hour working week. After the War, the new The League of Nations was based in Geneva.
Switzerland like the Netherlands was committed to neutrality. Unlike the Netherlands they were able to maintain their neutrality. Axis forces surounded Switzerland after the fall ofvFrance (1940). There was for a time a danger of a NAZI invasion, but Switzerland was not invaded. Historians have asked why Switzeland suceeded. The central reason is probably that they had a creditable military force. The Swiss were prepared to fight and by withdrawing into their Alpine national redoubt could have put up a substantial resistance. The Panzers would have been less effective than on the flat terraine of Poland France, and Russia. There is no doubt that the NAZIs would have succeeded, but it would have been at considerable cost. And atvany rate, a neutral Switzerland proved valuable to the NAZIs. There is also no doubt that if the NAZIs had prevailed in the War that Switzerland would have disappeared. Switzerland has a large German population, part of which was pro-NAZI. NAZI forbarance also reflected the fact that Switzerland was useful to the NAZI war effort. Swiss raw materials and industrial production could be imported. In addition, the Swiss played a role in finanzing the German war effort. Gold looted from the occupied countries could be used in Switzerland. Swiss acquiesence to NAZI demands were understandable after the fall of France (1940), but many observers believe that it continued long after the fortunes of war changed and the danger of NAZI invasion passed. Unlike Sweden, the Swiss returned Jewish refugees who managed to reach Switzeland to the Germans. This continued even adter D-Day.
Switzerlad after the War continued to prosper. It is one of the few European countries that has not joined the European Union. Today the issue of integrating Muslim imigrants has become a major issue.
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