History of Zürich

Brief history of Zurich summarized

A review of the brief history of Zurich, the capital of Switzerland.

The Romans and the Schwyzerdütsch (100 BC – 10th century)

Although Zurich’s history began before the Romans, it seems that they were the ones who gave the city its name. Around 15 BC they established a military base on the site of present-day Lindenhof called Turicum, and since its inhabitants were not as fluent in Latin, it gradually became the slightly more callous ‘Zurich’.

A copy of the Roman tomb stone mentioning Turicum is found at Lindenhof. Roman rule ended around 400 AD and no one has a clue what happened in Zurich for the next few centuries.

One major change entering this dark period is the arrival of the Germanic tribe of the Allemanni, who brought with them the language that would become today’s Swiss German dialect (Schwyzerdüütsch).

In the 9th century Zürich was part of the Carolingian empire and, according to legend, Emperor Charlemagne founded Zürich’s main cathedral, the Grossmünster. Perhaps the man himself never appeared in Zurich, but the kings of the Franks had a secondary residence, a palace, at the Lindenhof.

Zurich in the hands of women (12th-14th centuries)

In the 13th century, Zurich became an imperial city, answering only to the Holy Roman Emperor, which had grown out of the Carolingian Empire. Formally, Zürich was headed by a woman, the abbess of Fraumünster Abbey, who however shared power with an elected reichsvogt, the emperor’s representative.

In 1336 times began to change. An uprising of the Zürich craftsmen made the newly founded guilds the basis of Zürich’s political structure, weakening the power of the church and the landed gentry.

Even today, the people who matter in Zurich belong to one of the zünfte (guilds) and the Sechseläuten procession in April is their celebration (see Rules for the exact date). Many of the guild houses, still in use, are now also restaurants such as the Zunfthaus Zur Schmiden or the Zunfthaus am Neumarkt.

Zurich becomes Switzerland… (14th-16th centuries)

The guild revolution left Zürich somewhat isolated, leading to its alliance with the founding cantons of the former Swiss Confederation in 1351. So Zürich joined Switzerland, which had existed as a treaty since 1291. However, this did not prevent the city waged war against other cantons, as in the case of Schwyz, which stood in the way of Zürich’s territorial expansion plans.

Soon the city commanded lands around Lake Zürich and as far north as the Rhine and derived its wealth from craft production, trade across the Alps, and the hiring of mercenaries from foreign powers. Soldiers of the Swiss cantons armed with pike and halberd were wanted mercenaries who fought in all the major armies of Europe, sometimes even with each other.

They had earned a reputation as formidable fighters, due, among other things, to the victories of the Swiss cantons over the Habsburg king’s forces trying to stop them. However, the mercenary service was not appreciated by everyone. It was related to corruption and moral decay and was increasingly criticized in the early 16th century.

…and Protestant (16th century)

Huldrych Zwingli, a priest of the Grossmünster, was one of the main critics of the mercenary service. But he had much more to say on moral questions and became the initiator of the Reformation in Zurich from 1520.

Aside from banning mercenary service, transferring the property of monasteries and nunneries to the city, and removing decorations from churches, the Reformation spelled an end to all frivolous behavior: drinking, prostitution, and, indeed, most of the fun was prohibited or strictly regulated.

This had a lasting effect on Zurich. Other Swiss cantons followed suit and became Protestant, while many of them remained Catholic, a split that led to many future conflicts in the Confederation.

Napoleon Wreaks Havoc (16th-18th Centuries)

During the 16th and 17th centuries, Zürich’s wealth and influence increased, giving it enough confidence to declare itself the Republic of Zürich in 1648. While political power was increasingly monopolized by a few families, new ideas and ideas flourished. discussions.

Intellectuals of the time included the educational reformer Heinrich Pestalozzi, the historian Johann Jakob Bodmer, who had close ties to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or the painter Johann Heinrich Füssli, whose work is now in the Kunsthaus.

As early as 1780 they could have read the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich’s highest-quality newspaper that still exists today. In 1798, Zurich lost its independence when Napoleon seized power, transforming the Swiss Confederation into the Helvetic Republic, a centralized puppet state that only survived for five years.

In Zurich, once again independent, political refugees from other parts of Europe found asylum giving impetus to liberal ideas that led in 1831 to the transformation of Zurich into a model liberal state. This meant more democratic structures, the end of the domination of the city over the surrounding countryside, and an educational reform that gave rise to the school houses on Rämistrasse.

Railways and radical workers (19th-20th centuries)

Today’s Switzerland was founded in 1848 as a federation with much closer ties between the cantons than before. The year before, the first railway line in Switzerland was opened.

The railways were also the business of Alfred Escher, the man who for the next few decades dominated Zurich and Swiss politics like no other. Also known as the Tsar of Zurich, he founded large railway companies and was the architect of the construction of the Gotthard railway tunnel, which finally linked Italy with Switzerland and Germany in 1880.

The Escher statue is located, not surprisingly, right in front of the main train station, at the beginning of the Bahnhofstrasse. Switzerland remained neutral during World War I and was a refuge for artists such as James Joyce and the artists who started the Dada movement here.

However, the war exacerbated the poverty of the working classes and in 1918 a socialist committee with close contacts with communist Russia called a general strike. The government reacted by sending in the army which confronted the protesters in Zurich and ended the strike.

Many of the commission’s demands were met, though not the demand for women’s right to vote, which was not introduced until 1971.

The “Swiss Réduit” and the war (20th century)

For most of World War II, formally neutral Switzerland was totally surrounded by the Axis powers, making it difficult to import food and other goods.

General Guisan prepared for a military attack by sending the army to the borders and literally emptying the Alps, anticipating a guerrilla war from the mountains, the so-called reduction strategy.

From a traditional point of view this is what saved Switzerland from becoming part of Nazi Germany, but more recently historians have suggested that other factors may have been more important, sparking intense and emotional public debate in the 1990s..

Switzerland was undoubtedly an important financial intermediary for the Nazis, it allowed the traffic of goods between Germany and Italy and also supplied Germany with pieces of weaponry.

Zurich today

After the war, the Swiss economy grew and there was massive immigration from southern Europe, while culturally and politically Switzerland remained staunchly anti-communist and very conservative.

In 1968 and 1980, youth movements clashed with the police, shaking Zurich and eventually leading to the establishment of several autonomous youth centres. The movement brought new ideas and new cultural life to Zurich, giving it much of the momentum it has today and finally shaking off the puritanical restrictions that Zwingli had put in place.

It also gave rise to Zurich’s “Needle Park,” the open drug scene on Platzspitz that made Zurich famous throughout Europe in the early 1990s. Although the official reaction was repressive at first, Zurich shaped policy. Switzerland on drugs, introducing innovative controlled heroin programs that took addicts off the streets.

Today, Zurich remains a major financial center and has lost its conservative reputation. It has become popular as a place to live for highly skilled workers from all over Europe, ever since Switzerland signed free movement agreements with the European Union in 1999. This has made the lack of affordable apartments one of the main issues in Zurich today. day.

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