Switzerland History

By | June 7, 2021

The early days

People lived in the area that is Switzerland today as far back as the Paleolithic Age. Cro-Magnon people lived mainly in what is now the Jura Mountains region. The Cro-Magnon man belongs to Homo sapiens. This is us!

It was named after the place where it was found in France, where the skeletons of four adults and one child were found. The Cro-Magnon people lived from about 35,000 to 10,000 BC. In Europe.

The Celts are coming

In the Iron Age, the Celts finally settled in the Swiss region. Helvetier settled in the Swiss Plateau, Lepontier in Ticino, Seduner in Valais and on Lake Geneva, and Raetier in eastern Switzerland.

Switzerland and the Romans

Until the 1st century AD, the area was conquered by the Romans and included in their empire. Significant settlements emerged during this period. The population was Romanised and adopted the language and culture of the Romans. In 401 AD, Roman rule ended north of the Alps.

In addition to Alemanni, Burgundians came to the region from what is now France. They mingled with the Romanized population. But the language barriers also emerged. While the Romance languages ​​were spoken in the west and south, Germanic tribes such as the Alemanni settled in the center and north.

Switzerland in the Middle Ages

In the 8th century, the Franks subjugated the Burgundians and Alemanni. The Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties thus gained rulership over Helvetia. Christianity spread. In 870 the Franconian Empire was divided and Helvetia became part of Eastern Franconia, later the Holy Roman Empire.

Subsequently, Switzerland came under the influence of the Habsburgs, who continued to expand their power. The ancestral castle of the Habsburgs is in what is now the Swiss canton of Aargau.

The foundation of the Confederation

In order to put a stop to the power of the Habsburgs, “the Swiss” united. These were the three places Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. People got together to defend themselves. This happened in August 1291. This promise of the three places or original cantons can be seen as the founding act of the Swiss Confederation. The Swiss still celebrate their national holiday on August 1st today. The official name of Switzerland is Swiss Confederation in German.

The Habsburgs were not enthusiastic about this, because the area around the Gotthard was strategic and simply too important as a trade route and the Swiss wanted that to themselves. But in the end the Habsburgs had to surrender to the Swiss and their power began to crumble. More and more dependents broke away from the Habsburgs and joined the Confederation. In 1513 Appenzell was the last and 13th canton to join this confederation.

And what was the Rütli oath?

Perhaps you have heard of the Rütli oath? It is said here that the three envoys from the original cantons met and made a joint oath. This is said to have taken place on the Rütli, a meadow on Lake Lucerne.

This is then often decorated in a very flowery way. Many Swiss, and not only these, believe that the Rütli oath is a historical fact, which it is not. He’s just a beautiful legend, a story that has been told to himself over and over again.

The Rütli oath also became known through a play by Friedrich Schiller called “Wilhelm Tell”.

What did the Swiss Confederation look like in the 15th and 16th centuries?

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Confederation succeeded in negotiating, but also through wars and raids, to win over other confederates from all directions. At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Confederates were just as powerful as the then King of France.

The Swiss were ultimately able to defeat the strong Burgundians and became the strongest power in southern Germany. This power ended in 1515 when the King of France, Francis I, defeated an army of the Confederates in the battle for Milan. This victory of France at Marignano meant the end of the expansion of the Confederation.

Ulrich Zwingli and the Reformation

Ulrich Zwingli was a pastor in Zurich and was very impressed by Martin Luther’s writings. However, he had a different idea of ​​the meaning of the Christian Lord’s Supper than Luther. For him, the Lord’s Supper had a symbolic meaning, while Luther believed that Christ actually changed bread and wine. The two quarreled about that.

The Reformation in Switzerland was different from that in Germany and the followers of Zwingli and later Calvin also speak of the “Reformed”. The followers of Luther were the Lutherans. Even today a distinction is made between Evangelical Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran.

As everywhere in Europe, there were also violent religious wars in Switzerland. In the end, Switzerland decided that the decision as to which faith to adhere to should lie with the individual cantons. One did not want to rely on a central power, but decided according to the territory.

From the Thirty Years War to the French Revolution

The Swiss stayed out of the Thirty Years’ War. The Peace of Westphalia, the peace treaty of 1648, guaranteed the Swiss final independence from the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation.

The French Revolution did not leave Switzerland unaffected. In 1798 there was a revolution against the traditional in Switzerland. So a Helvetic Republic was established, which France served as a model. But this experiment failed. Nevertheless, this was already a good preparation for Switzerland towards a democratic state.

In 1798 Napoleon occupied Switzerland and, under his influence, made it a state based on the French model. Switzerland became the Helvetic Republic. In 1803 the name “Swiss Confederation” was established.

Within Switzerland, people who wanted a central government fought with those who preferred a loose alliance. The first were the “Unitarians” and the second the “Federalists”. Another dispute also existed between the more liberal and progressive forces in the cities and the more conservative in the countryside.

This argument continued. In 1847 a civil war broke out in Switzerland, in which these two points of view clashed. This Sonderbund War was the last armed conflict in Switzerland to date.

Why is Switzerland actually called a “neutral” state?

Switzerland has been a parliamentary federal state since 1848. The liberals and the forces that promoted the idea of ​​unity prevailed. The time of the loose amalgamation of the small Swiss states was over.

Maybe you have heard the word neutral in connection with Switzerland. In the two world wars, Switzerland also behaved neutrally, that is, it did not take any side of the warring parties, as it did before in the course of its history. Neutrality is one of the principles of Switzerland’s foreign policy.

Switzerland in World War II

According to ebizdir, Switzerland remained a democracy. On the one hand, refugees found refuge in Switzerland, on the other hand, Switzerland refused to accept many Jewish refugees in particular. It was not uncommon for a photo to be linked to the refugee’s wallet. It was easier for rich people to be accepted than poorer ones. The Swiss banks were also entangled in the injustice regime of the National Socialists. The money stolen from the Jewish population was brought abroad via these.

Switzerland in World War II