Switzerland is a small country situated in the heart of Central Europe
and shares a lot of it's history and of it's culture
(four national languages spoken in different regions) with it's
neighbours Germany, France, Italy and Austria.
When does the history of Switzerland begin? The answer depends on
the interpretation of the term Switzerland:
There might be good reasons for any of these choices because
Switzerland has been changing a lot during the centuries of its
history and there is not really too much common ground between
the Helvetians or the medieval Old Swiss Confederacy
and the modern Swiss Civil Society.
Nevertheless this website starts with the first inhabitants we have
any accounts of, but it does focus on Switzerland's change into a
modern democratic society and on
Switzerland's Role in World War II.
|600000 - 30000 B.C.||Ice Age
||Human Evolution in Africa. Central Europe more or
less covered by glaciers, some warmer intermediate periods allow
human activities, however.
|30000 - 1800 B.C.||Stone Age
||Hunters using weapons and tools made from stones in
|1800 - 800 B.C.||Bronze Age
||Weapons and tools made from bronze.
|800 - 58 B.C.
|Weapons and tools made from iron. Celtic tribes all
over Western Europe.
The Helvetians, a celtic tribe,
give their name to the Swiss territory: hence HELVETIA
on Swiss coins and stamps, ch = Confoederatio Helvetica
on cars and internet domains.|
|58 B.C. - 400 A.D.||Roman Period
||Helvetians stopped by roman commander
C. Julius Cesar when trying to move towards Southern France.
Switzerland occupied by roman troops, beginning of written history
in this region.
|400 - 1500||Middle Ages
||Germanic tribes set an end to the Roman Empire and
build new states and empires in Europe. Feudal system. Monasteries
keep up roman and greek heritage (reading and writing) and
develop new agricultural methods.
|1291 - 1515||Old Swiss Confederacy
||Three valleys in Central Switzerland unite against
the counts of Habsburg and fight for autonomy. Cities join the
confederacy. They conquer territories in northern and southern
|1523 - 1536||Reformation
||Swiss Reformers Zwingli and Calvin even more radical
than Luther in Germany. Calvin's doctrine has influenced denominations
in many other countries.
|1536 - 1798||Ancien Regime
||Switzerland is a loose confederacy of 13 cities and
small valley communities dominating the rest of the country. A few
families control state affairs. Several rebellions put down by
military force: repressed aspects of history in a country so proud
of it's tradition of democracy.
|1798 - 1802||Helvetic Republic
||Revolution in Switzerland. Farmers in occupied
territories become free citizens. Centralistic parliamentary
republic according to French model. Occupation by French troops and
some battles of Napoleon vs. Austria and Russia in Switzerland.
|1803 - 1815||Mediation
||Civil war brings Helvetic Republic to an end. French
emperor Napoleon enforces a constitution negociated under his
|1815 - 1830||Restauration
||Confederacy reestablished, however with 22 cantons
[member states]. Liberals in minority position.
|1830 - 1848||Regeneration
||Second French Revolution (1830) also boosts liberals in
Switzerland. Some federal states with liberal governments and
new constitutions. The conservative catholic governments of some
cantons [federal states] set up a secret Special Alliance
["Sonderbund"] against the liberal governments of other
cantons. This leads to a short civil war
||New Federal Constitution combining elements of
the U.S. constitution (Federal State with central and cantonal
[state] governments and parliaments) and of French revolutionary
tradition. The Principles of this constitution are still valid today.
|1800 - 1900||Industrialisation
||Switzerland is one of the first industrialized
countries in Europe.
|1914 - 1918||World War I.
||Armed neutrality works when surrounded by warfaring
|1918 - 1933||Economic Crisis
||Twenties are not so "roaring" in Europe.
Inner conflicts, general strike in 1918, 1929 world
economic crisis hit this industrialized country severely.
|1933 - 1939||Spiritual Defense
||Hitler in Germany is soon seen as a danger to
Switzerland's independence. Thousands of German refugees (jews,
intellectuals) accepted. Socialists and trade unions seek cooperation
with liberal employers against fascist threat.
|1939 - 1945||World War II.
||Neutral Switzerland surrounded by fascist troops
(Germany, Austria, Italy) or collaborating regimes (Vichy-France).
Some trade with Hitler was inevitable for sheer survival (and the
survival of more than 150,000 refugees). Other, not inevitable
aspects were: (Too) rigid refugee politics (25,000 sent back),
uncritical collaboration in case of looted assets and accepting
||Recent history is characterized by political
stability, economic progress, increased social security and a new
openness and tolerance.