Old Swiss Confederacy

The Old Swiss Confederacy (Modern German: Alte Eidgenossenschaft; historically Eidgenossenschaft, after the Reformation also République des Suisses, Res publica Helvetiorum "Republic of the Swiss") was a loose confederation of independent small states (cantons, German Orte or Stände[2]) within the Holy Roman Empire. It is the precursor of the modern state of Switzerland.

It formed during the 14th century, from a nucleus in what is now Central Switzerland, expanding to include the cities of Zürich and Berne by the middle of the century. This formed a rare union of rural and urban communes, all of which enjoyed imperial immediacy in the Holy Roman Empire.

This confederation of eight cantons (Acht Orte) was politically and militarily successful for more than a century, culminating in the Burgundy Wars of the 1470s which established it as a power in the complicated political landscape dominated by France and the Habsburgs. Its success resulted in the addition of more confederates, increasing the number of cantons to thirteen (Dreizehn Orte) by 1513. The confederacy pledged neutrality in 1647 (under the threat of the Thirty Years' War), although many Swiss served privately as mercenaries in the Italian Wars and during the Early Modern period.

After the Swabian War of 1499 the confederacy was a de facto independent state throughout the early modern period, although still nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War. The Swiss Reformation divided the confederates into Reformed and Catholic parties, resulting in internal conflict from the 16th to the 18th centuries; as a result, the federal diet (Tagsatzung) was often paralysed by hostility between the factions. The Swiss Confederacy fell to invasion by the French Revolutionary Army in 1798, after which it became the short-lived Helvetic Republic.

Old Swiss Confederacy

Eidgenossenschaft  (German)
République des Suisses  (French)
Res publica Helvetiorum  (Latin)
c. 1300 – 1798
Flag of Swiss Confederacy
The Old Swiss Confederacy in the 18th century
The Old Swiss Confederacy in the 18th century
Capitalsee Vorort[1]
Common languagesMiddle French / French, Alemannic German, Lombard, Rhaeto-Romansh
Roman Catholic
GovernmentAdministrative republic
• Death of Rudolf I
15 July 1291
1307/1291 (traditional dates) 1291
13–14 September 1515
1529 and 1531
• Formal independence from the HRE
15 May/24 October 1648
January–June 1653
• Collapse
5 March 1798
Preceded by
Succeeded by
House of Habsburg
House of Zähringen
House of Kyburg
House of Werdenberg
Imperial Abbey of Saint Gall
Duchy of Milan
Duchy of Savoy
Duchy of Burgundy
Helvetic Republic


Schweitzer Stier 1584
The "Swiss Bull" (Der Schweitzer Stier), horns decorated with a wreath showing the coats of arms of the Thirteen Cantons of the Confederacy (1584)

The adjective "old" was introduced after the Napoleonic era with Ancien Régime, retronyms distinguishing the pre-Napoleonic from the restored confederation. During its existence the confederacy was known as Eidgenossenschaft or Eydtgnoschafft ("oath fellowship"), in reference to treaties among cantons; this term was first used in the 1370 Pfaffenbrief. Territories of the confederacy came to be known collectively as Schweiz or Schweizerland (Schwytzerland in contemporary spelling), with the English Switzerland beginning during the mid-16th century. From that time the Confederacy was seen as a single state, also known as the Swiss Republic (Republic der Schweitzer, République des Suisses and Republica Helvetiorum by Josias Simmler in 1576) after the fashion of calling individual urban cantons republics (such as the Republics of Zürich, Berne and Basel).


Territorial-development-Swiss Confederacy
Territorial development of Old Swiss Confederacy, 1291–1797


The nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy was an alliance among the valley communities of the central Alps to facilitate management of common interests (such as trade) and ensure peace along trade routes through the mountains. The foundation of the Confederacy is marked by the Rütlischwur (dated to 1307 by Aegidius Tschudi) or the 1315 Pact of Brunnen. Since 1889, the Federal Charter of 1291 among the rural communes of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden has been considered the founding document of the confederacy.[3]


The initial pact was augmented by pacts with the cities of Lucerne, Zürich, and Berne. This union of rural and urban communes, which enjoyed the status of imperial immediacy within the Holy Roman Empire, was engendered by pressure from Habsburg dukes and kings who had ruled much of the land. In several battles with Habsburg armies, the Swiss were victorious; they conquered the rural areas of Glarus and Zug, which became members of the confederacy.[3]

From 1353 to 1481, the federation of eight cantons—known in German as the Acht Orte (Eight Cantons)—consolidated its position. The members (especially the cities) enlarged their territory at the expense of local counts—primarily by buying judicial rights, but sometimes by force. The Eidgenossenschaft, as a whole, expanded through military conquest: the Aargau was conquered in 1415 and the Thurgau in 1460. In both cases, the Swiss profited from weakness in the Habsburg dukes. In the south, Uri led a military territorial expansion that (after many setbacks) would by 1515 lead to the conquest of the Ticino. None of these territories became members of the confederacy; they had the status of condominiums (regions administered by several cantons).

At this time, the eight cantons gradually increased their influence on neighbouring cities and regions through additional alliances. Individual cantons concluded pacts with Fribourg, Appenzell, Schaffhausen, the abbot and the city of St. Gallen, Biel, Rottweil, Mulhouse and others. These allies (known as the Zugewandte Orte) became closely associated with the confederacy, but were not accepted as full members.

The Burgundy Wars prompted a further enlargement of the confederacy; Fribourg and Solothurn were accepted in 1481. In the Swabian War against Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the Swiss were victorious and exempted from imperial legislation. The associated cities of Basel and Schaffhausen joined the confederacy as a result of that conflict, and Appenzell followed suit in 1513 as the thirteenth member. The federation of thirteen cantons (Dreizehn Orte) constituted the Old Swiss Confederacy until its demise in 1798.

The expansion of the confederacy was stopped by the Swiss defeat in the 1515 Battle of Marignano. Only Berne and Fribourg were still able to conquer the Vaud in 1536; the latter primarily became part of the canton of Berne, with a small portion under the jurisdiction of Fribourg.


Schlacht bei Kappel
The forces of Zürich are defeated in the Second War of Kappel.

The Reformation in Switzerland led to doctrinal division amongst the cantons.[3] Zürich, Berne, Basel, Schaffhausen and associates Biel, Mulhouse, Neuchâtel, Geneva and the city of St. Gallen became Protestant; other members of the confederation and the Valais remained Catholic. In Glarus, Appenzell, in the Grisons and in most condominiums both religions coexisted; Appenzell split in 1597 into a Catholic Appenzell Inner Rhodes and a Protestant Appenzell Outer Rhodes.

The division led to civil war (the Wars of Kappel) and separate alliances with foreign powers by the Catholic and Protestant factions, but the confederacy as a whole continued to exist. A common foreign policy was blocked, however, by the impasse. During the Thirty Years' War, religious disagreements among the cantons kept the confederacy neutral and spared it from belligerents. At the Peace of Westphalia, the Swiss delegation was granted formal recognition of the confederacy as a state independent of the Holy Roman Empire.

Early modern period

Growing social differences and an increasing absolutism in the city cantons during the Ancien Régime led to local popular revolts. An uprising during the post-war depression after the Thirty Years' War escalated to the Swiss peasant war of 1653 in Lucerne, Berne, Basel, Solothurn and the Aargau. The revolt was put down swiftly by force and with the help of many cantons.

Religious differences were accentuated by a growing economic discrepancy. The Catholic, predominantly rural central-Swiss cantons were surrounded by Protestant cantons with increasingly commercial economies. The politically dominant cantons were Zürich and Berne (both Protestant), but the Catholic cantons were influential since the Second War of Kappel in 1531. A 1655 attempt (led by Zürich) to restructure the federation was blocked by Catholic opposition, which led to the first battle of Villmergen in 1656; the Catholic party won, cementing the status quo. The problems remained unsolved, erupting again in 1712 with the second battle of Villmergen. This time the Protestant cantons won, dominating the confederation. True reform, however, was impossible; the individual interests of the thirteen members were too diverse, and the absolutist cantonal governments resisted all attempts at confederation-wide administration. Foreign policy remained fragmented.


Attempting to gain control of key Alpine passes and establish a buffer against hostile monarchies, France first invaded associates of the Swiss Confederation; part of the bishopric of Basel was absorbed by France in 1793. In 1797, Napoleon annexed the Valtellina (on the border with Graubünden) into the new Cisalpine Republic in northern Italy and invaded the southern remainder of the bishopric of Basel.[4][5]

In 1798 the confederacy was invaded by the French Revolutionary Army at the invitation of the Republican faction in Vaud, led by Frédéric-César de La Harpe. Vaud was under Bernese control, but chafed under a government with a different language and culture. The ideals of the French Revolution found a receptive audience in Vaud, and when Vaud declared itself a republic the French had a pretext to invade the confederation.

The invasion was largely peaceful (since the Swiss people failed to respond to political calls to take up arms), and the collapse of the confederacy was due more to internal strife than external pressure. Only Bern put up an effective resistance, but after its defeat in the March Battle of Grauholz it capitulated. The canton of Bern was divided into the canton of Oberland (with Thun as its capital) and the canton of Léman (with Lausanne as its capital).

The Helvetic Republic was proclaimed on 12 April 1798 as "one and indivisible", abolishing cantonal sovereignty and feudal rights and reducing the cantons to administrative districts. This system was unstable due to widespread opposition, and the Helvetic Republic collapsed as a result of the Stecklikrieg. A federalist compromise solution was attempted, but conflict between the federalist elite and republican subjects persisted until the formation of the federal state in 1848.


Old Swiss Confederacy on 1637 map
Old Confederacy 18th centur
Old Swiss Confederacy in the 18th century

The (Alte) Eidgenossenschaft was initially united not by a single pact, but by overlapping pacts and bilateral treaties between members.[6] The parties generally agreed to preserve the peace, aid in military endeavours and arbitrate disputes. Slowly, the members began to see the confederation as a unifying entity. In the Pfaffenbrief, a treaty of 1370 among six of the eight members (Glarus and Berne did not participate) forbidding feuds and denying clerical courts jurisdiction over the confederacy, the cantons for the first time used the term Eidgenossenschaft. The first treaty uniting the eight members of the confederacy was the Sempacherbrief of 1393, concluded after victories over the Habsburgs at Sempach in 1386 and Näfels in 1388, which forbade a member from unilaterally beginning a war without the consent of the other cantons. A federal diet, the Tagsatzung, developed during the 15th century.

Pacts and renewals (or modernizations) of earlier alliances reinforced the confederacy. The individual interests of the cantons clashed in the Old Zürich War (1436–1450), caused by territorial conflict among Zürich and the central Swiss cantons over the succession of the Count of Toggenburg. Although Zürich entered an alliance with the Habsburg dukes, it then rejoined the confederacy. The confederation had become so close a political alliance that it no longer tolerated separatist tendencies in its members.

Tagsatzung of 1531 in Baden (1790s drawing)

The Tagsatzung was the confederation council, typically meeting several times a year. Each canton delegated two representatives (including the associate states, which had no vote). The canton where the delegates met initially chaired the gathering, but during the 16th century Zürich permanently assumed the chair (Vorort) and Baden became the seat. The Tagsatzung dealt with inter-cantonal affairs and was the court of last resort in disputes between member states, imposing sanctions on dissenting members. It also administered the condominiums; the reeves were delegated for two years, each time by a different canton.[7]

A unifying treaty of the Old Swiss Confederacy was the Stanser Verkommnis of 1481. Conflicts between rural and urban cantons and disagreements over the bounty of the Burgundian Wars had led to skirmishes. The city-states of Fribourg and Solothurn wanted to join the confederacy, but were distrusted by the central Swiss rural cantons. The compromise by the Tagsatzung in the Stanser Verkommnis restored order and assuaged the rural cantons' complaints, with Fribourg and Solothurn accepted into the confederation. While the treaty restricted freedom of assembly (many skirmishes arose from unauthorised expeditions by soldiers from the Burgundian Wars), it reinforced agreements amongst the cantons in the earlier Sempacherbrief and Pfaffenbrief.

The civil war during the Reformation ended in a stalemate. The Catholic cantons could block council decisions but, due to geographic and economic factors, could not prevail over the Protestant cantons. Both factions began to hold separate councils, still meeting at a common Tagsatzung (although the common council was deadlocked by disagreements between both factions until 1712, when the Protestant cantons gained power after their victory in the second war of Villmergen). The Catholic cantons were excluded from administering the condominiums in the Aargau, the Thurgau and the Rhine valley; in their place, Berne became co-sovereign of these regions.

List of territories


Karte 13 Alte Orte
The 13 cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy
Structure old swiss en
Structure of the Confederacy during the 18th century

The confederation expanded in several stages: first to the Eight Cantons (Acht Orte), then in 1481 to ten, in 1501 to twelve, and finally to thirteen cantons (Dreizehn Orte).[8]

  • Founding cantons (Urkantone):
  • 14th century: expansion to the Achtörtige Eidgenossenschaft following the battles of Morgarten and Laupen:
    • Lucerne-coat of arms.svg Lucerne, city canton, since 1332
    • Zurich-coat of arms.svg Zürich, city canton, since 1351
    • Glaris-coat of arms.svg Glarus, rural canton, since 1352
    • Zug-coat of arms.svg Zug, city canton, since 1352
    • Berne-coat of arms.svg Berne, city canton, since 1353; associate since 1323
  • 15th century: expansion to the Zehnörtige Eidgenossenschaft following the Burgundian Wars:
    • Fribourg-coat of arms.svg Fribourg, city canton, since 1481; associate since 1454
    • Solothurn-coat of arms.svg Solothurn, city canton, since 1481; associate since 1353
  • 16th century: expansion to the Dreizehnörtige Eidgenossenschaft following the Swabian War:
    • Bale-coat of arms.svg Basel, city canton, since 1501
    • Schaffhouse-coat of arms.svg Schaffhausen, city canton, since 1501; associate since 1454
    • AppenzellRI-coat of arms.svg Appenzell, rural canton, since 1513; associate since 1411


Karte Zugewandte Orte
Zugewante Orte of the Old Swiss Confederacy

Associates (Zugewandte Orte) were close allies of the Old Swiss Confederacy, connected to the union by alliance treaties with all or some of the individual members of the confederacy.

Closest associates

Three of the associates were known as Engere Zugewandte:

  • Biel-coat of arms.svg Biel – 1344–82 treaties with Fribourg, Berne and Solothurn. Nominally, Biel was subject to the Bishopric of Basel.
  • Coa Abbey Saint Gall.svg Imperial Abbey of St. Gallen – 1451 treaty with Schwyz, Lucerne, Zürich and Glarus, renewed in 1479 and 1490. The abbey was simultaneously a protectorate.
  • Coa stgallen.svg Imperial City of St. Gallen – 1454 treaty with Schwyz, Lucerne, Zürich, Glarus, Zug and Berne.

Eternal associates

Two federations were known as Ewige Mitverbündete:

  • Valais-coat of arms old.svg Sieben Zenden, an independent federation in the Valais – Became a Zugewandter Ort in 1416 through an alliance with Uri, Unterwalden and Lucerne, followed by a treaty with Berne in 1446.
  • Three Leagues were independent federations on the territory of the Grisons and became an associates of the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1497/98 through the events of the Swabian War. The Three Leagues together concluded an alliance pact with Berne in 1602.
    • Wappen Grauer Bund1.svg Grey League, who had been allied with Glarus, Uri and Obwalden through pacts from 1400, 1407 and 1419, entered an alliance with seven of the old eight cantons (the Acht Orte without Berne) in 1497
    • Wappen Gotteshausbund.svg League of God's House (Gotteshausbund) followed suit a year later.
    • Wappen Zehngerichtebund1.svg League of the Ten Jurisdictions, the third of the leagues, entered an alliance with Zürich and Glarus in 1590.

Protestant associates

There were two Evangelische Zugewandte:

  • Wappen Muelhausen.svg Imperial City of Mulhouse – Concluded a first treaty with some cantons in 1466 and became an associate in 1515 through a treaty with all 13 members of the Confederacy, remaining so until events of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1797.
  • Coat of Arms of Geneva.svg Imperial City of Geneva – 1536 treaty with Berne and a 1584 treaty with Zürich and Berne.


  • Wappen Neuenburg.svg County of Neuchâtel – 1406 and 1526 treaties with Berne and Solothurn, 1495 treaty with Fribourg and 1501 treaty with Lucerne.
  • Wappen Urseren.svg Imperial Valley of Urseren – 1317 treaty with Uri; annexed by Uri in 1410.
  • Pic Weggis.png Weggis – 1332–1380 by treaties with Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne; annexed by Lucerne in 1480.
  • Murten-coat of arms.png Murten – from 1353 by treaty with Berne; became a confederal condominium in 1475.
  • Payerne-blason.jpg Payerne – from 1353 by treaty with Berne; annexed by Berne in 1536.
  • Stemma Bellinzona.svg Vogtei of Bellinzona – from 1407 by treaty with Uri and Obwalden; became a confederal condominium from 1419–22.
  • Wappen Grafschaft Sargans.svg County of Sargans – from 1437 by treaty with Glarus and Schwyz; became a confederal condominium in 1483.
  • Wappen Sax.svg Barony of Sax-Forstegg – from 1458 by treaty with Zürich; annexed by Zürich in 1615
  • Offizielles Wappen von Stein am Rhein.png Stein am Rhein – from 1459 by treaty with Zürich and Schaffhausen; annexed by Zürich in 1484.
  • Greyerzbezirk-Wappen.png County of Gruyère – had been allied with Fribourg and Berne since the early 14th century, becoming a full associate of the Confederation in 1548. When the counts fell bankrupt in 1555, the country was partitioned in twain:[9]
  • Wappen Werdenberger1.svg County of Werdenberg – from 1493 by treaty with Lucerne; annexed by Glarus in 1517.
  • Wappen Rottweil.svg Imperial City of Rottweil – from 1519–1632 through a treaty with all 13 members; a first treaty on military cooperation had already been concluded in 1463. In 1632, the treaty was renewed with Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, Solothurn and Fribourg.
  • Wappen Bistum Basel.svg Bishopric of Basel – 1579–1735 by treaty with Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, Solothurn and Fribourg.


Condominiums (German: Gemeine Herrschaften) were common subject territories under the administration of several cantons. They were governed by reeves (Vögte) delegated for two years, each time from another of the responsible cantons. Berne initially did not participate in the administration of some of the eastern condominiums, as it had no part in their conquest and its interests were focused more on the western border. In 1712, Berne replaced the Catholic cantons in the administration of the Freie Ämter ("Free Districts"), the Thurgau, the Rhine valley, and Sargans, and furthermore the Catholic cantons were excluded from the administration of the County of Baden.[6]

German bailiwicks

The "German bailiwicks" (German: Deutsche Gemeine Vogteien, Gemeine Herrschaften) were generally governed by the Acht Orte apart from Berne until 1712, when Bern joined the sovereign powers:

Italian bailiwicks

Several bailiwicks (Vogteien) were generally referred to as "transmontane bailiwicks" (German: Ennetbergische Vogteien, Italian: Baliaggi Ultramontani). In 1440, Uri conquered the Leventina Valley from the Visconti, dukes of Milan. Some of this territory had previously been annexed between 1403 and 1422. Further territories were acquired in 1500; see History of Ticino for further details.

Three bailiwicks, all now in the Ticino, were condominiums of the Forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden:

Four other Ticinese bailiwicks were condominiums of the Zwölf Orte (the original 13 cantons, minus Appenzell) from 1512:

Another three bailiwicks were condominiums of the Zwölf Orte from 1512, but were lost from the Confederacy three years later and are all now comuni of Lombardy:

Two-party condominiums


  • Wappen Bellelay.svg Bellelay Abbey – protectorate of Bern, Biel and Solothurn from 1414; nominally under the jurisdiction of the Bishopric of Basel
  • Einsiedeln-Abbey-coat of arms.svg Einsiedeln Abbey – protectorate of Schwyz from 1357
  • Engelberg-coat of arms.svg Engelberg Abbey – protectorate of Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden from 1425
  • Saint Imier-coat of arms.svg Erguel – protectorate of Biel/Bienne under military jurisdiction from 1335; also subject to the Bishopric of Basel
  • Coa Abbey Saint Gall.svg Imperial Abbey of St. Gallen – protectorate of Schwyz, Lucerne, Zürich and Glarus from 1451; the abbey was simultaneously a Zugewandter Ort.
  • Wappen Gersau.svg Republic of Gersau, an independent village – allied with Schwyz since 1332; Lucerne, Uri and Unterwalden were also protecting powers.
  • Moutier-coat of arms.svg Moutier-Grandval Abbey – protectorate of Berne from 1486; the abbey was also subject to the Bishopric of Basel and, until 1797, the Holy Roman Empire
  • La Neuveville-coat of arms.svg La Neuveville – protectorate of Berne from 1388; also subject to the Bishopric of Basel.
  • Wappen Pfaefers.png Pfäfers Abbey – protectorate of the Acht Orte minus Berne from 1460; annexed to the County of Sargans in 1483
  • Rapperswil CoA.svg Rapperswil – protectorate of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Glarus from 1464; of Zürich, Berne and Glarus from 1712
  • Wappen Toggenburger2.svg County of Toggenburg – protectorate of Schwyz and Glarus from 1436; of Zürich and Berne from 1718. The county was simultaneously subject to St Gallen Abbey.

Separate subjects

Some territories were separate subjects of cantons or associates, Einzelörtische Untertanen von Länderorten und Zugewandten:





Three Leagues

Notes and references

  1. ^ the Swiss diet was presided de facto by Zürich during most of the 15th century. After the Reformation in Switzerland, the system of administration became more multipolar, with Lucerne and Berne playing an important role besides Zürich.Vorort in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  2. ^ In the charters of the 14th century described as "communities" (communitas hominum, Lantlüte), the German term Orte becomes common in the early 15th century, used alongside Stand "estate" after the Reformation. The French term canton is used in Fribourg in 1475, and after 1490 is increasingly used in French and Italian documents. It only enters occasional German usage after 1648, and only gains official status as synonym of Stand with the Act of Mediation of 1803. Kantone in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Schwabe & Co.: Geschichte der Schweiz und der Schweizer, Schwabe & Co 1986/2004. ISBN 3-7965-2067-7 (in German)
  4. ^ Swissworld.org accessed 1 February 2013
  5. ^ French Invasion in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  6. ^ a b Würgler, A.: Eidgenossenschaft in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 8 September 2004.
  7. ^ Würgler, A.: Tagsatzung in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 1 March 2001.
  8. ^ Im Hof, U.. Geschichte der Schweiz, 7th ed., Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1974/2001. ISBN 3-17-017051-1. (in German)
  9. ^ Boschetti-Maradi, A.: County of Gruyère in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2004-06-28.

Further reading

  • Aubert, J.-F.: Petite histoire constitutionnelle de la Suisse, 2nd ed.; Francke Editions, Bern, 1974. (in French)
  • Peyer, H. C.: Verfassungsgeschichte der alten Schweiz, Schulthess Polygraphischer Verlag, Zürich, 1978. ISBN 3-7255-1880-7. (in German)

External links

1566 celestial phenomenon over Basel

The 1566 celestial phenomenon over Basel was a series of mass sightings of celestial phenomena above Basel, Switzerland. The Basel pamphlet of 1566 describes unusual sunrises and sunsets. Celestial phenomena were said to have "fought" together in the form of numerous red and black balls in the sky before the rising sun. The report is discussed among historians and meteorologists. The phenomenon has been interpreted by some ufologists to be a sky battle between unidentified flying objects. The leaflet written by historian Samuel Coccius reported it as a religious event. The Basel pamphlet of 1566 is not the only one of its kind. In the 15th and 16th centuries, many leaflets wrote of "miracles" and "sky spectacles".


Appenzell is a historic canton in the northeast of Switzerland, and entirely surrounded by the canton of St. Gallen.

Appenzell became independent of the Abbey of Saint Gall in 1403 and entered a league with the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1411, becoming a full member in 1513. It has been divided since into Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden since 1597 as a result of the Swiss Reformation.

The territory of Appenzell as a geographical entity is known as Appenzellerland while in political contexts, the two cantons (until 1999 half-cantons) are referred to as beide Appenzell ("both Appenzells").

Battle of Sempach

The Battle of Sempach was fought on 9 July 1386, between Leopold III, Duke of Austria and the Old Swiss Confederacy. The battle was a decisive Swiss victory in which Duke Leopold and numerous Austrian nobles died. The victory helped turn the loosely allied Swiss Confederation into a more unified nation and is seen as a turning point in the growth of Switzerland.

Burgundian Wars

The Burgundian Wars (1474–1477) were a conflict between the Dukes of Burgundy and the Old Swiss Confederacy and its allies. Open war broke out in 1474, and in the following years the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, was defeated three times on the battlefield and killed in the Battle of Nancy in 1477. The Duchy of Burgundy and several other Burgundian lands then became part of France, while the Burgundian Netherlands and the Franche-Comté were inherited by Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy, and eventually passed to the House of Habsburg upon her death because of her marriage to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Canton of Neuchâtel

The Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel (French: la République et Canton de Neuchâtel, IPA: [kɑ̃tɔ̃ də nøʃɑtɛl]) is a canton of French-speaking western Switzerland. In 2007, its population was 169,782, of whom 39,654 (or 23.4%) were foreigners. The capital is Neuchâtel.

Canton of Thurgau

The canton of Thurgau (German: Thurgau , anglicized as Thurgovia) is a northeast canton of Switzerland.

It is named for the river Thur, and the name Thurgovia was historically used for a larger area, including part of this river's basin upstream of the modern canton. The area of what is now Thurgau was acquired as subject territories by the cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the mid 15th century. Thurgau was first declared a canton in its own right at the formation of the Helvetic Republic in 1798.

The population, as of December 2017, is 273,801. In 2007, there were a total of 47,390 (or 19.9% of the population) who were resident foreigners. The capital is Frauenfeld.

French invasion of Switzerland

The French invasion of Switzerland (French: Campagne d'Helvétie, German: Franzoseneinfall) occurred from January until May 1798 as part of the French Revolutionary Wars. The independent Old Swiss Confederacy collapsed, both by this foreign invasion and simultaneous internal revolts, termed the "Helvetic Revolution". Its Ancien Régime institutions were abolished and replaced by the centralised pro-French Helvetic Republic.

Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy

The Old Swiss Confederacy began as a late medieval alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps, at the time part of the Holy Roman Empire, to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains.

The Hohenstaufen emperors had granted these valleys reichsfrei status in the early 13th century. As reichsfrei regions, the cantons (or regions) of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were under the direct authority of the emperor without any intermediate liege lords and thus were largely autonomous.

With the rise of the Habsburg dynasty, the kings and dukes of Habsburg sought to extend their influence over this region and to bring it under their rule; as a consequence, a conflict ensued between the Habsburgs and these mountain communities who tried to defend their privileged status as reichsfrei regions. The three founding cantons of the Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, as the confederacy was called, were joined in the early 14th century by the city states of Lucerne, Zürich, and Bern, and they managed to defeat Habsburg armies on several occasions. They also profited from the fact that the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, for most of the 14th century, came from the House of Luxembourg and regarded them as potential useful allies against the rival Habsburgs. By 1460, the confederates controlled most of the territory south and west of the Rhine to the Alps and the Jura mountains. At the end of the 15th century, two wars resulted in an expansion to thirteen cantons (Dreizehn Orte): in the Burgundian Wars of the 1470s, the confederates asserted their hegemony on the western border, and their victory in the Swabian War in 1499 against the forces of the Habsburg emperor Maximilian I ensured a de facto independence from the empire. During their involvement in the Italian Wars, the Swiss brought the Ticino under their control.

Two similar federations sprung up in neighboring areas in the Alps in the 14th century: in the Grisons, the federation of the Three Leagues (Drei Bünde) was founded, and in the Valais, the Seven Tenths (Sieben Zenden) were formed as a result of the conflicts with the Dukes of Savoy. Neither federation was part of the medieval Eidgenossenschaft but both maintained very close connections with it.

List of battles of the Old Swiss Confederacy

List of battles fought by the Old Swiss Confederacy, 1315–1799.

The Battle of Morgarten of 1315 is famous as the first military success of the Confederacy, but it was an ambush on an army on the march rather than an open field battle.

The Battle of Laupen of 1339 is an early battle which can be seen as indicating the trend of the dominance of infantry over heavy cavalry during the Late Middle Ages.

The classical period of military successes of Swiss halberd and pike warfare Pike square (in de Gevierthaufen or Gewalthaufen) are the wars of the Eight Cantons (Ten Cantons after 1481) during the 1360s to 1490s. Most notable among these are the Battle of Sempach (1386), the Burgundian Wars (1470s) and the Swabian War (1499).

The string of Swiss victories is broken in the early 16th century, and after a few painful defeats (notably at Marignano 1515), the Confederacy stopped its aggressive expansion. The early modern period is characterized by internal disputes, both religious and social (peasant uprisings).

The final French invasion of Switzerland was only marginally a military operation and mostly a collapse due to centrifugal forces within the Confederacy.

List of wars involving Switzerland

This article is an incomplete list of wars and conflicts involving Switzerland, since the creation of the Old Swiss Confederacy.

Military history of Switzerland

The military history of Switzerland comprises centuries of armed actions, and the role of the Swiss military in conflicts and peacekeeping worldwide. Despite maintaining neutrality since its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499, Switzerland has been involved in military operations dating back to the hiring of Swiss mercenaries by foreign nations, including the Papal States.

Old Zürich War

The Old Zurich War (Alter Zürichkrieg), 1440–46, was a conflict between the canton of Zurich and the other seven cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy over the succession to the Count of Toggenburg.

In 1436, Count Friedrich VII of Toggenburg died, leaving neither heir nor will. The canton of Zurich, led by burgomaster Rudolf Stüssi, claimed the Toggenburg lands; the cantons of Schwyz and Glarus made counter-claims, backed by the other cantons. In 1438 Zurich occupied the disputed area and cut off grain supplies to Schwyz and Glarus. In 1440, the other cantons expelled Zurich from the confederation and declared war. Zurich retaliated by making an alliance with Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor of the house of Habsburg.

The forces of Zurich were defeated in the Battle of St. Jakob an der Sihl on 22 July 1443 and Zurich was besieged. Frederick appealed to Charles VII of France to attack the confederates and the latter sent a force of about 30,000 Armagnac mercenaries under the command of the Dauphin via Basel to relieve the city. In the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs near Basel on 26 August 1444 a blocking force of roughly 1,600 Swiss confederates were wiped out, but inflicted such heavy losses on the French (8,000 killed) that the Dauphin decided to retreat. The confederacy and the Dauphin concluded a peace in October 1444, and his mercenary army withdrew from the war altogether.In May 1444, the confederacy laid siege to Greifensee, and captured the town after four weeks, on May 27, beheading all but two of the 64 defenders on the next day, including their leader, Wildhans von Breitenlandenberg, the so-called Murder of Greifensee. Even in this time of war, such a mass execution was widely considered a cruel and unjust deed.

By 1446, both sides were exhausted, and a preliminary peace was concluded. The confederation had not managed to conquer any of the cities of Zurich except Greifensee; Rapperswil and Zurich itself withstood the attacks. In 1450, the parties made a definitive peace and Zurich was admitted into the confederation again, but had to dissolve its alliance with the Habsburgs.

The significance of the war is that it showed that the confederation had grown into a political alliance so close that it no longer tolerated separatist tendencies of a single member.


Schweppes () is a Swiss beverage brand that is sold around the world. It includes a variety of lemonade, carbonated waters and ginger ales.

Second War of Kappel

The Second War of Kappel (Zweiter Kappelerkrieg) was an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.

Swiss degen

The Swiss degen (Schweizerdegen) was a short sword (degen), an elongated version of the Swiss dagger, with the same double-crescent shape of the guard.

It was used as a type of side arm in the Old Swiss Confederacy and especially by Swiss mercenaries, from the first half of the 15th century until the mid 16th century.

The native term used in the 15th century for this weapon was basler. The term Schweizerdegen (as Early New High German Schwytzertägen) is first attested in 1499.

The blade length could be anywhere between 40 cm (16 in) and 70 cm (28 in).

Although there was a general trend towards longer blades over time, this development was not linear and disparate blade lengths coexisted throughout the 15th century, and only in the 16th century a more or less discrete split between the short dagger (dolch) and the long degen becomes evident.

These weapons were widely worn both by soldiers and by civilians. They were very popular with the Swiss mercenary pikemen throughout the late 15th and early 16th century.

Degen were not usually issued as ordnance weapons, but purchased privately as secondary weapons by soldiers. For this reason, there never emerged a definite standard form, and variations in hilt and blade design remained the rule from their inception in the 13th century until the weapon's decline in the 17th century.

The Cgm 558 Fechtbuch (Hugo Wittenwiler) mentions a few techniques for unarmed defense against an attack with a basler (Swiss degen). Use of the weapon has parallels to the fencing with the German Messer, and indeed the section on the basler in Wittenwiler's treatise takes the place of the Messer section in comparable German manuscripts (Wittenwiler treats basler techniques alongside the longsword, rondel dagger (tegen),

Swiss dagger (kurzes messer) and unarmed ringen).

Swiss illustrated chronicles

Several illustrated chronicles were created in the Old Swiss Confederacy in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were luxurious illuminated manuscripts produced for the urban elite of Bern and Lucerne, and their copious detailed illustrations allow a unique insight into the politics and daily life of late medieval Switzerland on the eve of the Reformation. The most important of these chronicles are the works of the two Diebold Schillings, their luxurious execution, as well as their content reflecting the growing confidence and self-esteem of the leaders of the confederacy after their spectacular successes in the Burgundian Wars.

1423 Konrad Justinger's chronicle (Bern) the original was lost, but a copy of the text survives in Jena.

1470 the "Tschachtlanchronik" by Bendict Tschachtlan und Heinrich Dittlinger (Bern, now kept in Zürich)

Diebold Schilling the Elder, Bern:

1483 the "Berner Schilling", three volumes, covering the time from the foundation of Bern up to and including the Burgundy Wars.

1480s "Spiezer Schilling", a shorter one-volume edition

1484 "Zürcher Schilling" (kept in Zürich; used by Gerold Edlibach for his chronicle of 1486)

Diebold Schilling the Younger, nephew of Diebold Schilling the Elder:

1515 "Luzerner Schilling"

1515 Chronicle of Wernher Schodeler of Bremgarten.

1529–1546 Berner Chronik of Valerius Anshelm.

1576 Christoph Silberysen's compendium.

1587 "Wickiana" by Johann Jakob Wick, a compilation of various manuscripts and prints.

1626–1631 Schweitzer-Chronic by Michael Stettler of Bern.


The Federal Diet of Switzerland (German: Eidgenössische Tagsatzung, IPA: [ˈtaːkˌzatsʊŋ]; French: Diète fédérale; Italian: Dieta federale) was the legislative and executive council of the Swiss Confederacy which existed in various forms since the beginnings of Swiss independence until the formation of the Swiss federal state in 1848.

The Diet was a meeting of delegates from the individual cantons. Though it was the most wide-reaching political institution of the Old Swiss Confederacy, its power was very limited, as the cantons were essentially sovereign.

While the composition and functions of the Federal Diet had changed and evolved since its founding in the 15th century, it was most notably re-organized during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. The understanding of the Federal Diet can be broken down into three main periods; before the French invasion in 1798, the period of the French invasion and the Act of Mediation, and from its restructuring by the Federal Treaty (Bundesvertrag) of August 7, 1815 through its dissolution following the civil war in 1848.

Territories of the Holy Roman Empire outside the Imperial Circles

When the Imperial Circles (Latin: Circuli imperii German: Reichskreise) — comprising a regional grouping of territories of the Holy Roman Empire — were created as part of the Imperial Reform at the 1500 Diet of Augsburg, many Imperial territories remained unencircled.

Initially six circles were established in order to secure and enforce the Public Peace (Landfrieden) declared by Emperor Maximilian I and the jurisdiction of the Reichskammergericht. They did not incorporate the territories of the Prince-electors and the Austrian homelands of the ruling House of Habsburg. Only at the 1512 Diet of Trier were these estates (except for the Kingdom of Bohemia) included in the newly implemented Burgundian, Austrian, Upper Saxon, and Electoral Rhenish circles, confirmed by the 1521 Diet of Worms.

After 1512, the bulk of the remaining territories not comprised by Imperial Circles were the lands of the Bohemian crown, the Old Swiss Confederacy and the Italian territories.

Besides these, there were also a considerable number of minor territories which retained imperial immediacy, such as individual Imperial Villages (Reichsdörfer), and the lands held by individual Imperial Knights (Reichsritter).

Transalpine campaigns of the Old Swiss Confederacy

The transalpine campaigns of the Old Swiss Confederacy, known as Ennetbirgische Feldzüge "transmontane campaigns" in Swiss historiography, were military expeditions which resulted in the conquest of territories south of the Alps, corresponding more or less to the modern canton of Ticino, on the part of the Old Swiss Confederacy.

These territories were known as ennetbirgische Vogteien or "transmontane bailiwicks".


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