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European Kingdoms

Central Europe



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 or groups, such as Ligurians and Raeti, almost certainly had Celtic influences in later days, but may have originated as indigenous, pre-Indo-European peoples.

Before even that it emerged as a home for various archaeological cultures of middle and late Neolithic Farmers, in the form of the Rössen, the Cortaillod, and the Pfyn, plus the Chalcolithic Horgen culture.

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, from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), 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.)


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.


The young Count Amadeus increases Savoy's territory by extending its borders from the River Arve (a tributary of the Rhône) to the Dranse d'Abondance (another, far more minor tributary of the Rhône). 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'.

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


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.


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.


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


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.


The Confederation achieves full autonomy.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Map of German states AD 1560
Introduced in 1560, the system of imperial states replaced the now-outdated feudal system, with an imperial circle ('reichskreis') being a regional grouping of the imperial states (click or tap on map to view full sized)


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.


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


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.


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


The question of a homeland in Palestine for the members of the Jewish Diaspora is one which 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.


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.


Following the conclusion of a customs treaty between the two states, a dense network of relations evolves between Liechtenstein and Switzerland, which Liechtenstein is able to preserve even when it joins the EEA in 1995.

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 which are owned by Liechtenstein's royal family during the war, according to an official report which is delivered in 2005 after four years of preparation.

The same report alleges that the royal family also buys property which has been taken from members of the Jewish Diaspora in Nazi-occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia.

But the Alpine country is not responsible for trading in gold or other valuables which 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 one hundred and sixty-five.

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