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Switzerland

Lying sandwiched between modern Germany and France, Switzerland also provides an Alpine gateway into northern Italy. Thanks to this position as a crossroads the country has received influences from all three, including in terms of language, all of which are spoken. It has a long history in this role, from the coming of the Romans onwards. Before this it was largely occupied by Celtic and other tribes (notably the Helvetii, Brigantii, Raeti, and Seduni), and may even have been part of the original homeland of the Celts, along with nearby Bavaria. The other tribes, such as Ligurians and Raeti, almost certainly had Celtic influences in later days, but may have originated as indigenous, pre-Indo-European peoples.

The aforementioned Helvetii tribe dominated during the first century BC, largely occupying south-western and northern Switzerland. Following about four centuries of inclusion in the Roman empire, the region fell into Burgundian hands around AD 450, and by the early seventh century was under direct Frankish control. It was attached to Frankish Neustria between 613-719, before passing to the Middle Franks between 843-869, and then the Germanic Franks until 888. From there it went back into Frankish Burgundian control between 888-1032, and then to the Franconian and later Holy Roman emperors in the period 1032-1648.

Modern Switzerland also encompasses the former county of Lugano.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from Research into the Physical History of Mankind, James Cowles Prichard, and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and Defeat of the Vocates and Tarusates, J Rickard, and World Bank Data Catalogue (in US English), and BBC News: Nazi Crimes Taint Liechtenstein.)

1032

As agreed by Rudolf III of Burgundy in 1006, following his death and with no heir to succeed him, his kingdom (including its Swiss territories) is inherited by Franconian Emperor Conrad II the Salian. Although the kingdom continues to operate with a fair degree of autonomy, from this point onwards, the emperors also count themselves as kings of Arles.

1128

The young Count Amadeus increases Savoy's territory by extending its borders from the River Arve (a tributary of the Rhone) to the Dranse d'Abondance (another, far more minor tributary of the Rhone). With a capital at Saint-Maurice, this area becomes known as the 'New Chablais' to differentiate it from the established Savoyard territories, the 'Old Chablais'.

Evian-les-Bains
Today the Chablais country which incorporates Evian-les-Bains is divided between the south-eastern French department of Haute-Savoie and the Swiss cantons of Valais and Vaud, but in the eleventh century the French border was nowhere near as advanced

1266

Count Peter of Savoy finds his territory in the Vaud Canton occupied by Rudolf of Habsburg, future duke of Austria, as part of their dispute. Peter returns to Savoy from Piedmont and leads a force to clear the Vaud, retaking his chateau in the process.

1285

Amadeus V of Savoy is proffered the title of 'Protector of Geneva' by the bishop of Geneva after the latter has been undergoing a degree of conflict with the established incumbent, Amadeus II, count of Geneva. Geneva subsequently accepts vassal status to Savoy.

1291

The Swiss confederation arises on the southern border of the disintegrating German stem duchy of Swabia.

1313

With the death of John Parricide, any claim to the former Swabian duchy dies with him. Large areas of its territory have already gone to the established county of Württemberg and the margraviate of Baden. Territory formerly belonging to the Alemanni people also later forms parts of Austria (Vorarlberg), France (Alsace) and Switzerland, as well as the Bavarian Swabia region of Bavaria.

1355

The Confederation achieves full autonomy.

1395

The duchy of Milan is created along the southern border of the Swiss confederation, out of territory that belongs ultimately to the Holy Roman empire. The duchy will become an important player in the tangled web of Italian politics.

1401

The purchase of the Swiss county of Geneva is effected by Amadeus VIII of Savoy. It is another of the various lands that once formed part of the kingdom of Burgundy and has been controlled by its own line of counts who, nevertheless, have remained dominated (and virtually surrounded) by the Savoyards for some time. Amadeus gains the territory following the death of its last count, thanks to the count's son selling it off. Savoyard lands have now extended greatly since Humbert White Hands was initially raised to the rant of count.

1500

Duke Ludovico of Milan manages to regain his seat from the French by returning with an army of mercenaries, which includes Swiss fighters. He uses the city of Novara as his base, and Louis XII quickly lays siege to it. With Swiss troops on both sides, those fighting for Ludovico decide to absent themselves from the battle. The 'Betrayal of Novara' sees Ludovico being handed over to the French, who promptly transport him to a dungeon at Loches where he remains for the rest of his life.

1513

Lugano becomes the property of Switzerland for the second and final time, following a brief period of ownership in 1501-1503. Between 1513-1798, it falls within the Bellinzona district. Following the French invasion of Switzerland under Napoleon Bonaparte, it is transferred to the canton of Lugano within the Helvetic republic between 1798-1803. It finds its final home within the canton of Ticino from 1803.

1600

Not long after being replaced as governor of the Spanish Netherlands due to his excessive severity, Pedro Enríquez arrives in Milan to create fear amongst the nobles of northern Italy. He oversees the building of the Forte di Fuentes, a powerful fortress on the shore of Lake Como, to defend Milan from the Grisons of the easternmost canton of Switzerland.

1648

Following the end of the Thirty Years War and the Treaty of Westphalia, Switzerland gains full independence from the Austrian-dominated Holy Roman empire.

1798 - 1803

MapSwitzerland is seized by the French First Republic, which reforms it into the Helvetian or Helvetic republic. Lugano is reorganised into the canton of Lugano, which unifies the former Landvogteien of Lugano, Mendrisio, Locarno and Valmaggia. Always rather stormy and unsettled, the Helvetian republic is abandoned in 1803 and Switzerland's confederation is re-established.

1812

The Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, rediscovers the 'lost' city of Petra, ancient capital of the Nabataeans.

1815

Switzerland's 'perpetual neutrality' is guaranteed by the Congress of Vienna, following the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars against France.

1845 - 1847

A constitutional crises escalates into civil war.

1848

In a year of European revolutions, the modern Swiss state is established, following reforms to the old system.

1897

The question of a Jewish homeland in Palestine is gaining international recognition, helped on by the founding of a political form of Zionism and the first meeting of the World Zionist Congress in this year, held in Basel in Switzerland.

1918

The Austro-Hungarian empire is fast failing in the last weeks of the First World War. Realising the inevitability of the break-up of the empire, on 16 October the emperor issues a manifesto to his people that, in effect, transfers the state into a federation of nationalities. He is too late. The Austrian empire soon ceases to exist and Germany now stands alone. Neighbouring Liechtenstein is forced to refocus its own priorities, and soon signs a customs and monetary union with Switzerland.

1939 - 1945

Switzerland's existence during the Second World War is a relatively quiet one. It remains neutral alongside its immediate neighbour, Liechtenstein. However, Jewish slave labourers are alleged to work on Austrian estates that are owned by Liechtenstein's royal family during the war, according to an official report that is delivered in 2005 after four years of preparation. The same report alleges that the royal family also buys property that has been taken from Jews in Nazi-occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia.

But the Alpine principality is not responsible for trading in gold or other valuables that have been looted from Jews. Investigations reveal that neighbouring Switzerland sends thousands of Jewish refugees back to Nazi-occupied Europe and that Swiss companies trade with Nazi Germany. Liechtenstein takes in about four hundred refugees from Nazi-controlled Austria between 1933 and 1945 and turns back a further 165.