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History of Switzerland: Introduction / Sitemap A Short History of Switzerland History of Switzerland: Detailed Timeline  Early Swiss History
Prehistory: Lake-dwellings in Switzerland Swiss History: Celtic Helvetians Switzerland during the Age of Romans, Aventicum Aventicum, Swiss Capital in the Age of Romans Switzerland during the Middle Ages  Old Swiss History
The Old Swiss Confederacy (1291-1515) William Tell (Switzerland's National Hero) The Swiss Reformation (Calvin, Zwingli)  A Modern Constitution
Swiss Revolution and Helvetic Republic (1798) Switzerland's Federal Constitution (1848) History of Switzerland's Flag Switzerland's Political System The Long Way to Women's Right to Vote  Industrialisation
Industrialisation in Switzerland Johanna Spyri: Heidi, the girl from the alps - A bestseller about times of change  World War II
World War II: General Timeline Switzerland's Role in World War II Spiritual Defense against Nazism Switzerland's Economic Dependence and Rationing Jewish Refugees Looted Assets Switzerland's Neutrality Switzerland's National Public Radio Station Beromünster  Country & People
Basic information about Switzerland - country profile Switzerland's Population and Languages Important Swiss monuments: pictures and meaning  Links
Links: History Swiss Museums Links: Switzerland

A Timeline of
Switzerland's History


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 Europe.
1800 - 800 B.C.Bronze Age Weapons and tools made from bronze.

Early Swiss History

800 - 58 B.C. Iron Age

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 - 1500Middle 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.

Old Swiss History

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 Switzerland.
1291 Federal Charter Switzerland's document of birth
1315 Battle at Morgarten Decisive Battle against the counts of Habsburg
1332 Lucerne member First city joins the Swiss confederacy
1351 Zurich member A first strategic alliance with a partner outside the narrow valleys around Lake Lucerne
1352 Glarus, Zug members All major forces around the Lakes of Lucerne, Zurich and Zug "on board"
1353 Bern member Confederacy of 8 members
1386 Battle of Sempach Final defeat for Habsburg. The confederacy of 8 member states is de facto autonomous.
1388 Battle of Näfels
1403-1440 Ticino conquered Central Switzerland expands southwards
1415 Aargau conquered Habsburg banned, the Swiss Confederacy profits by the opportunity to conquer Habsburg's family estate
Old Zurich war
(formal peace)
Zurich allies with Habsburg and fights against Schwyz and Glarus for the succession to the extinct counts of Toggenburg.
1460 Thurgau conquered Pope bans duke Friedrich IV. of Habsburg: another opportunity to conquer a territory "legally"
1474-1477 Burgundian Wars Duke Charles of Burgundy defeated by the Swiss Confederacy
1481 Fribourg, Solothurn members Rural central Switzerland is not eager to admit two more cities to the confederacy. The hermit St. Nikolaus of Flüe (a former politician and military leader) mediates.
1499 Swabian War against attempted tighter rule by the German Emperor, Switzerland becomes de facto independent.
1501 Basel, Schaffhausen members Allies in the Swabian War consolidate Switzerland's position against the German Empire.
1513 Appenzell member The confederacy of 13 members remains stable until 1798
1515 Battle of Marignano Troops of Bern and central Switzerland take different sides in battle between the French king and Italian dukes and are defeated. The lesson learnt leads to Switzerland's neutrality

Reformation and Counter Reformation in Switzerland

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.
1523 Zwingli Reformation in Zurich
1524-1528   Reformation spreads in northern Switzerland
1529, 1531 Civil Wars motivated by religious antagonism; Zwingli dies in the battle of Kappel. Catholic hegemony within the confederacy.
1536 Calvin Reformation in Geneva
1536 Vaud conquered by Bernese troops
1545-1563 Tridentinum catholic reform council, start of catholic counter reformation.
1577,1580 Jesuit colleges founded in Lucerne and Fribourg as "bridge-heads" of the catholic counter reformation.
1597 Appenzell split into two half-cantons due to religious antagonism.
1600 - 1798Ancien 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.
1618-1648 30 Years' War all over Europe, Swiss confederacy a "peaceful island"
1648 Peace Treaty of Westphalia All European peace treaty formally accepts Switzerland as an independent nation
1653 Peasants' War Revolt of the rural population between Lucerne and Bern against the undemocratic rule of the cities. The rebels are defeated and severely punished.
1656, 1712 Civil Wars again motivated by religious antagonism. End of Catholic hegemony.

Swiss Revolution, Helvetic Republic, Federal Constitution

1653 Peasants' War Revolt of the rural population between Lucerne and Bern against the undemocratic rule of the cities. The rebels are defeated and severely punished.
1717-1729 Wilchingen peasant revolt
1719 - 1722 Werdenberg peasant revolt
1723 Major Davel patriotic revolt against domination of Vaud by Bern
1726 - 1739 Jura revolt against the rule of the prince-bishop of Basel
1755 Leventina
revolt against the rule of Uri
1761 Helvetic Society founded by Swiss scholars. They call for political reforms.
1773 Jesuit order dissolved by the Pope (due to conflicts within the catholic church)
1777 Johann Georg Stokar pleads in a speech to the Helvetic Society for a centralistic republic with equal rights for all citizens.
1781 Chenaux revolt against the rule of Fribourg
1789 French Revolution was not - as some people put it - the reson for the Swiss revolution, it was just a sign that revolution may be successful after all these failed revolts.
1790-1797 Petitions, Revolts all over Switzerland peasants demand for equal rights and revolt against taxes. Some are even partially successful.
1798 Swiss Revolution Revolution in Switzerland. Farmers in occupied territories become free citizens. French troops support revolutionaries in western Switzerland.
1798 - 1802 Helvetic Republic Centralistic parliamentary republic according to French model. Occupation by French troops and some battles of Napoleon vs. Austria and Russia in Switzerland.
1803 - 1815Mediation Civil war brings Helvetic Republic to an end. French emperor Napoleon enforces a moderately federalist constitution negociated under his "mediation"
1814 Jesuit order restored by the Pope
1815 - 1830Restauration Loose onfederacy reestablished, however with 22 cantons [member states]. Liberals in minority position. The international Vienna congress on Europe's post-Napoleon order confirms Switzerland's borders and its perpetual neutrality.
1830 - 1848Regeneration Second French Revolution (1830) also boosts liberals in Switzerland. Some cantons with liberal governments and new constitutions. 18 years of embittered struggle between liberals and conservatives.
1832 Antimodernism Pope Gregor XVI. condemns modern culture, the liberal way of thinking and the "impudent science". Catholic clergymen agitate against liberal reforms.
1833 Baden Articles Liberal catholic politicians call for democracy within the church and for the limitation of church influence on politics.
1833 Basel split in two half-cantons. The rural population demands for political rights and declares autonomy when the city does not grant them.
1839 David Friedrich Strauss A liberal protestant theologian is appointed professor at Zurich university. Conservative protestants enforce his resignation and and the liberal government resigns!
1841 Dissolution of Monasteries Liberal catholic Augustin Keller protests against church propaganda and proposes the dissolution of monasteries in canton Aargau.
1844 Jesuits in Lucerne Lucerne has a now conservative parliament and appoints the Jesuit order to take care of the education of priests.
1845 Armed radical marches Armed radicals [radicalized liberals] march for Lucerne, they are defeated by regular troops.
1845 "Sonderbund" Conservative catholic politicians fall back into old schemes of religious antagonism catholic vs. protestant and set up a secret Special Alliance [Sonderbund] of catholic cantons that happen to have conservative governments at the time. When the alliance becomes public, conservative protestants are as much frustrated as liberals.
1847 "Sonderbundskrieg"
(civil war)
As the special alliance is unwilling to dissolve, a civil war settles the question. General Dufour leads the victorious federal troops. The leader of the conservative flees into Roman exile.
1848Federal State Now public opinion is ready for the 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.
1866 Emancipation of Jews Equal rights for the Jewish minority in Switzerland.
1871 First Vatican Council declares "infallibility" of the Pope. More than 400,000 Swiss catholics leave the church. When Bishop Lachat of Basel tries to exclude priests opposing the dogma, cantonal governments intervene and force him to resign, 84 priests supporting him are expelled.
1874 Total Revision of Constitution marks the final point to "Kulturkampf" [struggle between church and state on basic rules of society]. Marriages, birth and death certificates are controlled by state authorities instead of the church. The Jesuit order is banned from Switzerland until 1973 (de facto, Jesuits returned to Switzerland before World War II and were tolerated).
1874 Optional Referendum is introduced. 30,000 (today 50'000) citizens may demand for a referendum on any law passed by the parliament. This is the key element of Switzerland's unique system of Direct Democracy.
1891 Popular Initiative The Popular Initiative is introduced: 50,000 (today: 100,000) citizens may demand for a partial change of the constitution and enforce a referendum on the proposal against the will of parliament and government.
1891 Joseph Zemp elected as the first conservative member of the government: a first step towards a multi-party government.

Industrialisation, Traffic, Tourism, Communication

1750 - 1900 Industrialisation Switzerland is one of the first industrialised countries in Europe.
1653 Postal service a private service connects Lucerne and Milan (Italy) once a week.
1700 - 1800 Poets, Scientists as Tourist the Alps are discovered by poets, scientists and painters
1764 Textile Machines invented in the United Kingdom
1801 Textile Machines Swiss engineers start constructing their own machines
1803 Chocolate start of production
1804 Chemical Factory start of production in Switzerland's first chemical factory at Aarau
1805 Simplon Road first modern alpine crossing road usable for wagons in Europe
1807 Ramparts razed in Bern to boost traffic; Zurich follows 1833, Geneva 1850
1814 Textile Industry machines have replaced production by hand completely in Switzerland.
1815 Factory Law Cantonal laws in Zurich and Thurgau prohibits work of children below 10 years.
1817 Emigration 3000 Swiss people leave for North and South America and Russia to flee from starvation and looming economical prospects. Until 1860 some 40,000 more emigrate.
1818 Steamboat First steamboat in Switzerland on Lake Geneva
1831 Factory Burnt Traditional textile home-workers in Uster (near) Zurich burn down a new factory.
1840 - 1860 Pauperism Masses of people sink into poverty
1846 Factory Law Glarus limits daily work to 15 hours for adults and 14 hours for children under 14 years
1847 Railways First Swiss railway line Zurich - Baden (1855 Zurich - Winterthur, 1864 Zurich - Lucerne)
1849 Asphalt first road coated with asphalt from Val de Travers, Switzerland
1850 Stock Exchange first Swiss stock exchange opens in Geneva (Basel 1876, Zurich 1877)
1858 Hauenstein Tunnel on railway line Basel - Olten
1863 Thomas Cook organizes tours "all included" to Switzerland: start of mass tourism
1864 Synthetic Colors produced in Basel
1866 Babyfood based on milk, sweeteners and flour
1871 Cogwheel Railway to Mount Rigi, central Switzerland, invented by Swiss engineer Niklaus Riggenbach
1877 Federal Factory Law limits daily work to 11 hours for adults, restricts work at night and prohibits work of children under 14 years.
1877 Telephone Thomas Alva Edison (USA) adds a powerful microphone to the telephone invented by Philipp Reis (Germany, 1863) and slightly improved by Alexander Graham Bell (USA, 1876).
1880 Public Telephone Networks in Zurich, 1881 in Basel and Bern, 1883 in Geneva
1880/81 Heidi Johanna Spyri writes a bestseller story for children reflecting times of change.
1882 Gotthard Tunnel first alpine railway line (Basel -) Lucerne - Gotthard - Bellinzona - Milan
1882/83 Emigration 13,500 persons leave Switzerland. Destinations are USA (83%), Argentina (11%), Canada (4%), Brasil (2%).
1883, 1886 Swiss Fast Food soup powder in bags and soup-cubes are invented
1875 Milk Chocolate invented by Daniel Peter, Vevey
1879 Melting Chocolate a process to let chocolate melt on the tongue is invented by Rodolphe Lindt, Bern
1896 Cars, Trucks start of car production in Switzerland in 1896, trucks in 1903
1898 State Railways After severe financial and security problems of private owned railway companies parliament and electorate decide to nationalize the major railway lines. Swiss Federal Railways start operating in 1902.
1906 Simplon Tunnel 19.803 km (12.300 miles) remains the longest railway tunnel until the end of the 20th century
1912 Jungfrau Railway highest railway station of Europe (3457 m / 11,342 ft)
1926 Automated Public Telephone Exchange in Bern. Switzerland's telephone network is the first in the world to be 100% automated (without operators) long before the time of digital telephony and Switzerland has the highest density of telephone lines.
1922 Lausanne Radio is the first Swiss radio station to broadcast a public program and the third in Europe
1931 National Radio Transmitters are built in Beromünster (German language), Sottens (French) and Monte Ceneri (Italian).

Recent Swiss History

1914 - 1918World War I. Armed neutrality works when surrounded by warfaring nations.
1914 - 1918 Regional Tensions Though formally neutral, sympathy of Switzerland's population is split: German speaking Swiss are oriented towards Germany, French speaking Swiss towards France.
1918 - 1933Economic Crisis The twenties are not so "roaring" in Europe. Inner conflicts, general strike and world economic crisis hit this industrialised country severely.
1918 General Strike Social Democrats and Trade Unions demand for a change from majority election to proportional representation women's right to vote, a limitation of the working time to 48-hours a week, and social security insurance. The government puts down the strike by military force, but the demands have to be complied with in the following decades one by one.
1919 Proportional Representation is introduced for the election of the National Council (big chamber of federal parliament). The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) looses its majority.
1920 League of Nations founded, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland
1929 World Economic Crisis hits Switzerland as a highly industrialised and export oriented country severely
1929 Rudolf Minger representing the farmer's and craftsmen's party (today Swiss People's party SVP) is elected member of the government.
1933 - 1939Spiritual Defense Hitler in Germany is soon seen as a danger to Switzerland's independence. Thousands of German refugees (jews, intellectuals) are accepted. Socialists and trade unions seek cooperation with liberal employers against fascist threat.
1937 "Peace Agreement" between trade unions and entrepreneurs in Switzerland's machine constructing and electrical industry. Trade unions are accepted as representatives of the workers and renounce on strikes. The agreement is a first fruit of Spiritual Defense and prepares the ground for Switzerland's exceptionally cooperative climate between unions and entrepreneurs.
1939 - 1945World 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 stolen gold.
1943 Ernst Nobs former leader in the 1918 general strike is elected first social democrat member of Swiss government.
Since 1945Prosperity Recent history is characterized by political stability, economic progress, increased social security and a new openness and tolerance.
1948 Social Security Insurance This third major fruit of Spiritual Defense is the most noble present the country could make itself to celebrate 100 years of modern democracy.
1959 "Magic Formula" concerning the election of Switzerland's government: all major parties (Free Democrats (FDP), Christian Democrats (CVP), Social Democrats (SP) and Swiss People's Party (SVP)) are represented with 2+2+2+1 members.
1963 Council of Europe Switzerland becomes a member of this international organisation dedicated to the peaceful cooperation of European nations and the promotion of human rights
1971 Women's Suffrage accepted in a national referendum
1979 Canton Jura The youngest federal state of Switzerland separates from Canton Bern after a series of referendums on communal, cantonal and federal level
1984 Elisabeth Kopp elected first female member of federal government
1992 European Economic Area In a referendum the Swiss electorate decides not to join group of associates to the European Union.
2000 Bilateral Accords with the European Union approved in a referendum. The bilateral accords comprise the key features of the European Economic Area with specific modifications.
1999 Total Revision of Constitution does not change any rights or competences, but replaces a thicket of original paragraphs and amendments by a modern structure.
2002 Switzerland joins the UN finally the electorate can be convinced that Switzerland simply cannot stay outside an organisation all other nations are members of.
2003 "Magic Formula" slighty modified: one government member for the Christian Democratic Party and two for Swiss People's Party.

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