Political History Of Switzerland
The history of mankind in Switzerland goes back in time to about 150,000 years. Studies project that during the latter part of the Iron Age, La Tène culture was prevalent under the Greek and Etruscan civilizations. The Helvetii tribe was one of the most prominent tribal groups in this area, who were vanquished by the forces of Julius Caesar in the Battle of Bibracte in 58 BC.
In 15 BC, the Alps came under the domain of the Roman Empire by the triumph of Tiberius I and Drusus. In the early years of the Middle Ages, the present country of Switzerland was divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy. However, in due course of time both these kingdoms came under the reign of the Frankish Empire. By virtue of the Treaty of Verdun, the Frankish Empire was divided into Middle Francia and East Francia in 843 AD but was again integrated in 1000 AD under the umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire. Around 1200 AD, the Swiss plateau was under the controls of the houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg and Kyburg. With the fall of the Kyburg dynasty in 1264 AD, the Habsburgs under the leadership of King Rudolph I occupied the eastern Swiss plateau.
In 1291, three valley communities namely; Uri, Schwys and Nidwalden in Central Switzerland joint hands against the counts of Habsburg to fight for their sovereignty giving rise to the Old Swiss Confederacy. Thereafter in 1353, the confederacy was joined in by five more states, which further enhanced the supremacy of the federation. They subjugated territories in northern and southern Switzerland. However, the process of expansion launched by the federation ended in 1515 with trounce of the Swiss in the Battle of Marignano; thereby putting a full stop to the ‘heroic’ era in Swiss history. With the Swiss reformer Zwingli entering the scenario, the era of inter-cantonal wars began in 1529 and 1531. These internal wars continued for more than a century. Finally in 1648, Switzerland gained independence from the Holy Roman Empire via the Treaty of Westphalia and the European countries acknowledged its neutrality.
The period of 1536 to 1798 is designated as the Ancien Regime during which Switzerland was a loose confederacy incorporating 13 cities and small valley communities that controlled the entire nation. With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1798, the novel administration of Helvetic Republic imposed a new constitution with the dissolution of cantons. Switzerland’s identity was trampled to the status of a mere French satellite state. During this regime, attacks were launched on France by Russia and Austria but the Swiss refused to fight for the French. Eventually, a civil war led to the fall of the Helvetic Republic. Napoleon, the French monarch, enforced a constitution conferred under the Act of Mediation. This reinstated the Swiss independence to a large extent and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons. It was in 1815 via the Congress of Vienna that the Swiss sovereignty was completely re-established and the European powers approved of the Swiss neutrality once and for all. However, only after the Siege of Gaeta in 1860, the Swiss armed forces stopped functioning for foreign governments.
The country maintained its policy of neutrality by and large during the two World Wars.
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