Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


(Der Schweiz, La Suisse, Swizzera)

Capital : Bern (Berne)

Aargau, Appenzell-Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell-Inner-Rhoden, Basel Stadt, Baselland, Bern, Luzern, Glarus, Graubünden (Grisons), Sankt-Gallen, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Neuchatel, Fribourg, Schaffhausen, Genève, Schwyz, Thurgau, Valais, Zürich, Ticino, Vaud, Zug

Size: 15 900 sq m Popn: 6 905 000


Western Switzerland was settled by the Helvetii, a Celtic people, from the C1st BC to the C5th AD. One of the major phases of Celtic activity is named after La Tene in Switzerland, and the Upper Danube area to the north of modern Switzerland was heavily influenced by Celtic culture. Known to the Romans as Helvetians or Transalpine Gauls, the Helvetii invaded southern Gaul in 58 BC but were defeated by Julius Caesar at Bibracte, near Autun and Helvetia became subject to Rome. As an Imperial Province of the Roman Empire, Rhaetia fell to the Huns when they invaded Italy in the C5th. The Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, crossed the Rhine and Danube and settled in what is now Alsace, and northern Switzerland. The area known as Alemannia was conquered by the Frankish Empire in 744 and fully absorbed into the East Frankish kingdom in the C9th.

The Hohenstaufen family's Kingdom of Germany grew out of the East Frankish lands from the C10th on. In 1291, the cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Lower Unterwalden formed the Everlasting League to defend their rights against their Habsburg overlords. Other towns and cantons joined them and there were thirteen by 1513. During the Reformation, Zò rich, Berne and Basel became Protestant but the rural cantons remained Roman Catholic. Switzerland won more freedom from Habsburg control and its complete independence was recognised in 1648 by the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War. A peasant uprising in 1653 was suppressed.

France invaded in 1798 and established the Helvetian Republic with a centralized government. Switzerland became a democratic federation under Napoleon's Act of Mediation in 1803. The Congress of Vienna, which followed Napoleon's defeat in 1815, guaranteed Swiss neutrality and gave Switzerland Geneva and other territories which increased the number of cantons to 22. There was civil war between the Liberals and the Sonderbund, a union of the Catholic cantons of Lucerne, Zug, Freiberg and Valais. A revised federal constitution which gave the government wider powers, was introduced in 1848 and an 1874 revision increased government powers further and introduced the principle of the referendum.

Swiss neutrality, retained during the two World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45, has led to the country becoming a base for many international organizations and a host for international peace conferences. It was a founder member of the European Free Trade Association in 1960. Stable internal politics and coalition governments have allowed Switzerland to become one of the richest countries, per capita, in the world. The ruling four-party coalition continued in power after the 1987 election but the Green Party gained a significant increase in its number of seats and a referendum of 1989 revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the national militia and military service requirements. Switzerland celebrated its 700th anniversary in August 1991. In October that year, there was little change in seat distribution and the four-party coalition stayed in power with Ren¾ Felber as president and Adolf Ogi as vice-president.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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