History of Switzerland

By | April 28, 2022

On the territory of modern Switzerland in the 2nd century. BC, according to historyaah, the Celtic tribe of the Helvetians lived (after their name the country in ancient times was called Helvetia). Then these lands were conquered by the troops of Julius Caesar (58 BC) and were included in the Roman Empire. In the 3rd-5th centuries AD this territory was constantly invaded by the Germanic tribe of the Alemanni, who gradually occupied the entire eastern part. In the 2nd floor. 5th c. the western regions went to the Burgundians. In the 6th c. these territories became part of the Frankish state. After its collapse (843), the eastern part went to Germany (which later became the core of the Holy Roman Empire), and the western part to Burgundy (such a division basically corresponded to linguistic and ethnic differences).

In 1033 both parts were incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire. Large fiefdoms (counties and duchies) began to appear. In the east, the Habsburgs seized the dominant positions, in the west – the Savoy counts. But some influential cities (Geneva, Zurich and Bern), as well as the “forest cantons” (Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden) managed to achieve special imperial rights, i.e. gain real independence.

The Swiss confederation arose in 1291 as a result of an allied treaty between the three “forest cantons” for a joint struggle for independence against the rule of the Habsburgs. Another attempt to subdue them again ended with the defeat of the imperial troops at Margarten (in 1315), after which other cantons (Lucerne, Zurich, Zug, Glarus and Bern) began to join the alliance of victors. Thus, a union of 8 cantons arose, which continued the struggle for independence. In 1388 the Habsburgs were forced to make peace on terms very favorable to the Swiss Union. See ehistorylib for more about Switzerland history.

In long and almost continuous wars, Swiss military prowess reached a high level. In the 14th-16th centuries. the confederation even became the main supplier of hired soldiers in the armies of many leading European countries. In con. 15th c. Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Maximilian I made another attempt to again make the union of the Swiss cantons dependent. However, this Swiss (or Swabian) war ended with the complete defeat of the imperial troops. In the concluded treaty (dated 1511), the Swiss Union completely terminated its connection with the empire and was defined as an independent state (this act received international recognition by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648).

In subsequent years, the territorial expansion of the confederation continued (by 1798 it already included 13 cantons). The process of gradual organizational restructuring of the union began. Within the framework of the confederation, there was no permanent central governing body, it was replaced by periodically held sejms, in which only “full cantons” had the right to vote. Along with them, there were “allied lands” (Geneva, St. Galen, etc.) and even “subject territories” (Aargau, Ticino, etc.). The latter were completely powerless. The contradictions between the members of the “union of cantons” led to constant struggle and even armed clashes.

The first attempt to create a central government and proclaim the equality of all cantons was made within the framework of the Helvetic Republic (1798), created with the assistance of France. But after the collapse of the Napoleonic empire, the Swiss Sejm adopted (in 1814) a new version of the treaty of alliance on the confederation of cantons, which again significantly limited the competence of the central government. The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) approved this treaty, the principle of “permanent neutrality” of Switzerland, as well as the accession to the confederation of new cantons (their total number increased to 22).

At the same time, the supreme power, which was again transferred to the Sejm, became less and less effective. In 1832, the seven most economically developed cantons (Zurich, Bern, and others) created the so-called. “Siebenbund” (“Union of Seven”), which came forward with a demand to revise the union treaty (dated 1814). In contrast to it, in 1845, the Sonderbund (Special Union) arose, which also included 7 cantons, but economically less developed with a feudal-clerical society (Schwyz, Uri, etc.). Contradictions grew between the opposing alliances, and even a civil war broke out (November-December 1847), which ended in victory for the bourgeois forces.

In 1848, the country’s new Constitution was adopted, on the basis of which the Swiss Confederation was transformed from a fragile union of cantons into a single union state. Instead of the Sejm, the Federal Assembly was established, consisting of the National Council and the Council of State (Council of Cantons). Executive power was transferred to the Federal Council (i.e. the government). In 1874, changes were made to the Constitution that significantly expanded the competence of the central government, incl. allowing the establishment of state supervision over the activities of the church.

The completed centralization contributed to the faster economic development of the country. A single internal market appeared (customs, post offices were merged, the monetary system was unified, etc.). Light industry, watchmaking began to grow at a rapid pace, and in con. 19th century mechanical engineering began. The main prerequisites for the industrialization of the country were the accumulation of capital as a result of intermediary operations in the international financial sphere, a significant influx of technical intelligentsia and skilled labor from neighboring leading European countries. A significant role was played by the growing income from the resort and tourism sector, which gradually turned into one of the leading sectors of the national economy.

A large-scale change in the general appearance of the country (as a “quiet and cozy alpine paradise”) was facilitated by increased activity in the formation of a new transport infrastructure. Of great importance was the railway construction, the opening of the two largest tunnels: St. Gotthard (1882) and Simplon (1906). The country gradually turned into the most important European transport crossroads (especially between the North and South of the continent). This factor turned out to be one of the most important in the formation of new “production niches” of the country, oriented mainly to world markets. A particularly intensive development of specialized branches of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemistry (especially pharmaceuticals) began.

During the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Switzerland remained neutral, but its Armed Forces were very active in protecting national borders (for example, during the 2nd World War, over 200 aircraft were shot down (or interned) in the airspace of the country warring countries). Of course, during these wars, the country received huge incomes from the execution of not only large production orders, but also large-scale intermediary financial transactions.

Modern Switzerland is one of the most highly developed countries in the world. Relying on the basic principles of “eternal neutrality” allowed it to create an effective democratic society, characterized by political stability and economic prosperity. Switzerland has made a particularly significant contribution to the formation of the religious and educational image of modern Europe and the whole world.

History of Switzerland