Swiss History

Topics covered

  • The origins of Switzerland
  • Important battles
  • The role of Napoleon in Swiss history
  • Swiss national heroes: Are they real?
  • Armed neutrality
  • Switzerland’s situation in the First and Second World Wars
  • Switzerland’s relationship with the EU

Who We're Speaking With

In this episode, Daniel Shalom and Diccon Bewes take a brief run through Swiss history.

Diccon grew up in Britain but moved to Switzerland in 2005. His first book, Swiss Watching, became an international bestseller and he is now writing his ninth Swiss title. He lives in Bern with his partner (and a cupboard full of chocolate).

About the Episode

Although Switzerland is now known for its neutrality, this wasn’t always the case. In the Middle Ages, the Swiss allies fought many battles against the Austrians, then called Habsburgs. We take you through 730 years of Swiss history:

  • The sealing of the oath on the Rütli meadow: In 1291, representatives from the three original cantons, Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden promised to protect each other from the Habsburgs. There is no proof that this happened exactly as the legend tells it, but the Letter of Allegiance exists to this day.
  • The Battles of Morgarten and Sempach: In 1315 and 1386, the Swiss won against the Austrians.
  • The Battle of Marignano: In 1515, the French won over the Swiss. A year later, the Swiss Confederation signed a peace treaty with France. This is widely believed to be the start of Swiss neutrality.
  • The 30 Years War: This took place in the 17th century. Although the Swiss weren’t involved, the treaty that ended the war resulted in the recognition of Swiss independence in 1648.
  • The Congress of Vienna: In 1814 and 1815, a series of international diplomatic meetings took place. Switzerland was assured permanent neutrality, and it has not been involved in any battles since, except for the one-month-long civil war in 1847.
  • Modern Switzerland: The country we know today was created in 1848, with the only recent change being the separation of canton Jura from canton Bern in 1978-79.


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