Old Swiss Confederacy

Swiss Confederacy
Corpus helveticum (German)[1]
Corps helvétique (French)[2]
Corpo helvetico (Italian)[3]
Confoederatio helvetica (Latin)[3]
The Old Swiss Confederacy in the 18th century, with the modern Swiss national border in red.
The Old Swiss Confederacy in the 18th century, with the modern Swiss national border in red.
Capitalde jure: None[4]
de facto: Zürich (since 15th century)
Official languagesGerman[5]
Common languagesMiddle French / French, Alemannic German, Lombard, Rhaeto-Romansh[citation needed]
• Death of Rudolf I
15 July 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
CurrencyAbout 75 different local currencies, including Basel thaler, Berne thaler, Fribourg gulden, Geneva thaler, Geneva genevoise, Luzern gulden, Neuchâtel gulden, St. Gallen thaler, Schwyz gulden, Solothurn thaler, Valais thaler, Zürich thaler
Preceded by
Succeeded by
House of Habsburg
House of Zähringen
House of Kyburg
House of Werdenberg
Imperial Abbey of Saint Gall
Duchy of Milan
Barony of Vaud
Duchy of Burgundy
Holy Roman Empire
Helvetic Republic

The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy[6] was a loose confederation of independent small states (cantons, German Orte or Stände[7]), initially 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 Bern 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.

  1. ^ Corpus helveticum, in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  2. ^ Corps helvétique, in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  3. ^ a b Corpo helvetico, in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  4. ^ Kaufmann, David (2018). "4. Bern: the government city". Varieties of Capital Cities. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN 9781788116435.
  5. ^ Ayres-Bennett, Wendy; Carruthers, Janice (2018). Manual of Romance Sociolinguistics. De Gruyter. p. 529. ISBN 9783110365955.
  6. ^ (Modern German: Alte Eidgenossenschaft; historically Eidgenossenschaft, after the Reformation also Corps des Suisses, Confoederatio helvetica "Confederation of the Swiss")
  7. ^ 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.

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