Switzerland was originally inhabited by a Celtic population, who were named Helvetians by the Romans. Between the 3rd and 5th centuries, the Alemannen tribes swept down from the north and conquered the northern and eastern part of Switzerland. The southwestern part of Switzerland was ruled by the Burgundians, who had settled in France. In the 6th century, theFranks took control of the part of Switzerland that was part of the duchy of Swabia. The smaller south-western portion of the country remained under Burgundian domination at this time. The Burgundian Swiss spoke French, a language division that remains today.
In 1033, the kingdom of Burgundy joined the Holy Roman Empire, and when it became a part of France in the 14th century, the Helvetian part of Switzerland remained Swiss. The House of Hapsburg, the rulers of Austria, had their original seat in Switzerland, which they gained control of in 1278. Their policies provoked a rebellion among the Ur-cantons, or ancient cantons, of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden. although they were free subjects of the Empire, according to tradition, they made a famous oath in 1291, to protect their freedom, refusing to "salute the governor's hat on a pole."
The governor, a local authority chosen by the emperor, demanded that all citizens salute his hat as they passed by, in order to assure that the Swiss would respect the authority of their ruler. According to Swiss folklore, William Tell refused to salute the symbol of the governor's authority and was forced to split the apple that had been placed on his son's head by the cruel governor, by shooting at his own son with an arrow from his own crossbow. he split the apple without harming his son, then turned on the governor and killed him. William thus began the successful Swiss battle for independence.
In 1315, the takers of the oath, or the Eidgenossen, defeated the emperor's forces and they also defeated a superior Austrian force in 1386. The mountains of Switzerland and Swiss military efficiency proved to be a major obstacle to a conquering army. By 1499, a further dozen cantons had joined the Swiss Confederacy, and Switzerland's already independent status was officially recognized by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
After the glorious period known as the Renaissance, the forces of religious conflict, political transformation, and modernization shook the German states. However, by the end of the 15th century, the Swiss Confederacy had been established even though Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire was not officially recognized until after the Thirty Years' War.
In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation shattered the unity that Western Christendom had experienced for over a thousand years. During the Reformation, Switzerland was not devastated by religious strife. On the contrary, it remained unified and strong. Cities such as Geneva, Lucerne, Zurich and Bern were centers of the Reformation. John Calvin achieved great prominence in Switzerland as a Protestant reformer and founded the branch of Protestantism that bears his name. This small country has remained united despite its four different languages: German, French, Raeto-Romanic, and Italian.
Switzerland is well known for its consistent political neutrality. With only seven percent its people involved in farming, Switzerland is a non-agricultural country whose main industries are tourism and banking. Swiss banks are world-famous for their discretion, hospitality, and efficiency. Other industries include chocolate and cheese manufacturing, as well as the traditional Swiss mastery of precision products, based on the watch-making tradition.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials
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