Brief history of Switzerland in brief
A brief tour of the history of Switzerland, the Swiss country, neutral for centuries.
Around 500 BC a Celtic people called the Helveti entered Switzerland from the west. However, in 58 BC the Romans dominated the area and built a capital at Aventicum (Avenches). In the following centuries, Switzerland became completely Romanized. The Romans built roads and other cities.
In the 5th century AD peoples called Germans, Burgundians and Lombards settled in Switzerland. However, some 600 francs from France conquered them. In the 9th century, under Charlemagne, the Franks ruled most of Europe.
However, his empire was divided among his descendants and by the 13th century most of Switzerland was ruled by the Austrian Habsburg family. Meanwhile, trade and commerce grew in Switzerland in the 12th and 13th centuries and new towns were founded.
In 1291 delegates from the cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden met on the Rutli meadow and formed an alliance against the Habsburgs. They formed the core of modern Switzerland.
Switzerland grew stronger and stronger. In 1315, the Swiss defeated the army of Prince Leopold Habsburg. Then, in 1332, the canton of Lucerne was incorporated. The canton of Zürich followed in 1351. Later, the cantons of Glarus, Zug and Bern joined the Swiss Confederation. Furthermore, the Swiss again defeated the Habsburgs at Sempach in 1386 and at Nafels in 1388.
In the 15th and early 16th centuries, Switzerland became even bigger and stronger. The cantons of Freiburg and Solothurn were united in 1481. Basel and Schaffhausen followed in 1501, and Appenzell was united in 1513. There are now 13 cantons in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, Swiss soldiers became feared mercenaries in other parts of Europe. In 1506 Pope Julius II formed the Swiss Guard to be his bodyguard.
However, Switzerland suffered a defeat in 1515. In 1512 Swiss troops occupied Lombardy, but in 1515 the French and Venetians defeated them at the Battle of Marignano. Subsequently, Switzerland began to adopt a policy of neutrality.
In the 16th century, like the rest of Europe, Switzerland was shaken by the Reformation. The urban areas of Switzerland adopted Protestantism, but the poor rural areas remained Catholic. The leading figures of the Swiss Reformation were Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) in Zurich and Jean Calvin (1509-1564) in Geneva.
During the 17th century, Switzerland prospered. It remained neutral in the Thirty Years War that ravaged Europe in the years 1618-1648 and in 1848 Austria formally recognized the independence of Switzerland.
In the 18th century, economic growth in Switzerland continued. It was prompted by the arrival of Huguenots (French Protestants) fleeing religious persecution. Watchmaking flourished in 18th-century Switzerland. So did a textile industry.
Then, in 1798, Napoleon invaded Switzerland. He abolished the 13 cantons and replaced them with the Helvetic Republic. However, it was short lived. The Swiss cantons were restored in 1803. (Although they were under the control of France until 1815).
In the early 19th century, opinion between liberals and conservative Catholics in Switzerland became polarized. In 1845 seven Catholic cantons formed a union called the Sonderbund. Other Swiss demanded its dissolution and in 1847 a brief civil war was fought. It ended with the defeat of the Catholic cantons.
At the end of the 19th century, the Swiss economy developed rapidly. Tourism to Switzerland grew. Switzerland was also known for its chemical industry, its precision engineering, and its foods such as chocolate and powdered milk.
During World War I, Switzerland remained neutral, although many German-speaking Swiss supported Germany, while many French-speaking Swiss supported the Allies.
Then, in November 1918, a general strike took place in Switzerland. The Swiss army was sent in to break the strike, but the workers ultimately won their demands. Proportional representation and a 48-hour work week were introduced.
In 1920 Switzerland joined the League of Nations and the 1920s were years of prosperity for the nation. However, like the rest of the world, Switzerland suffered from the depression of the early 1930s. However, in the late 1930s, the Swiss economy recovered as the world rearmed.
During World War II, Switzerland remained neutral, although Swiss banks accepted gold looted by the Nazis and Swiss industry helped supply the German war machine. The post-war years were also prosperous for Switzerland, but it was not until 1971 that women were allowed to vote in Switzerland. In 1993, Ruth Dreifuss became the first female president of Switzerland.
In 2002, Switzerland joined the UN, although it continues to maintain a policy of neutrality. Like the rest of Europe, Switzerland suffered a recession in 2009, but has recovered since 2010 and is prosperous today. Today, the population of Switzerland is 8.2 million.
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