History in Switzerland
By the Neolithic period, the area now called Switzerland was quite densely populated. Remains of Bronze Age pile dwellings from as early as 3800 BC.
In 58 BC, the Helvetii tried to evade migratory pressure from Germanic tribes by moving into Gaul but were defeated at Bibracte by Julius Caesar’s armies and then sent back. The alpine region became integrated into the Roman Empire and was extensively Romanised in the following centuries.
After the collapse of Roman rule, Germanic tribes entered the area. Burgundians settled in the west; while in the north, Alamanni settlers slowly forced the earlier Celto-Roman population to retreat into the mountains. Burgundy became a part of the kingdom of the Franks in 534.
The Treaty of Verdun of 843 assigned Upper Burgundy (the western part of what is today Switzerland) to Lotharingia, and Alemannia (the eastern part) to the eastern kingdom of Louis the German which would become part of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the 10th century, as the rule of the Carolingians waned, Saracenes ravaged the Valais, and Magyars destroyed Basel in 917 and St. Gallen in 926. Only after the victory of king Otto I over the Magyars in 955 in the Battle of Lechfeld, were the Swiss territories reintegrated into the empire.
The demise of Kyburg rule saw control going to the Habsburg dynasty who bought much of the territory south of the Rhine under their control.
The Swiss victory in a war against the Swabian League in 1499 amounted to independence from the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1506, Pope Julius II engaged the Swiss Guard that continues to serve the papacy to the present day.
The French Revolutionary Wars saw Switzerland completely overrun in 1798 by the French and became the united Helvetic Republic, effectively abolishing the cantons.
In 1803 Napoleon’s Act of Mediation partially restored the sovereignty of the cantons, and the former tributary and allied territories of Aargau, Thurgau, Grisons, St. Gallen, Vaud, and Ticino became cantons with equal rights.
The Congress of Vienna of 1815 fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality.
Switzerland adopted a federal constitution in 1848, from then, and over much of the 20th century, continuous political, economic, and social improvement has characterized Swiss history.
The major powers respected Switzerland’s neutrality during World War I, and during World War II Switzerland was never attacked.
In the 1990s, controversy over a class-action lawsuit brought in Brooklyn, New York over Jewish assets in Holocaust-era bank accounts prompted the Swiss government to commission the most recent and authoritative study of Switzerland’s interaction with the Nazi regime.
Switzerland’s role in many United Nations and international organizations, helped to mitigate the country’s concern for neutrality. In 2002, Switzerland was officially ratified as a member of the United Nations.
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