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Switzerland History Timeline

BC
  • (8000BC) First settlements built in present-day Switzerland
  • (1000BC) Tribes of Celts migrated into Switzerland
  • (50BC) Romans established provincial towns in Switzerland
400s AD – 1800s
  • (400) Roman legions withdrew from the towns they established in Switzerland; many people converted to Christianity
  • (600) Franks invaded the indigenous tribes of Switzerland, converted many Swiss Pagan tribes to Christianity
  • (1291) First Swiss confederation formed between rural communities in Switzerland
  • (1300) Switzerland was an important trade route between Asia and Northern Europe
  • (1499) Swabian Wars led to independence from the German empire; first parliament formed in Switzerland, representatives from different confederates met to consult and vote on political issues
  • (1536) Jean Calvin, famous Christian reformist thinker, moved to Geneva from France
  • (1798) French army under the command of Napoleon invaded Switzerland
  • (1802) Swiss revolt forced French army to leave Switzerland
  • (1815) Borders of Switzerland and its territory's neutrality established at the Congress of Vienna
  • (1848) Switzerland became a unified federal state with a constitution
  • (1874) Revised constitution allowed for the exercise of direct democracy by referendum
1900s
  • (1914-18) During World War I, Switzerland organized Red Cross units
  • (1919-20) Treaty of Versailles reaffirmed Swiss neutrality
  • (1920) Switzerland joined League of Nations; League's headquarters established in Geneva
  • (1923) Customs union entered with Liechtenstein
  • (1939-45) Declaration of neutrality issued by Federal Council at the start of World War II; Switzerland refused to join United Nations
  • (1959) Switzerland was founding member of European Free Trade Association
  • (1963) Switzerland joined Council of Europe
  • (1967) Right-wing groups campaigned to restrict entry of foreign workers
  • (1971) Women granted right to vote in federal elections
  • (1979) After referendum, French speaking part of Bern became separate canton of Jura
  • (1985) Referendum guaranteed women legal equality with men within marriage
  • (1986) Referendum opposed UN membership; immigrant numbers restricted
  • (1992) Switzerland joined World Bank and international Monetary Fund
  • (1994) Referendum approved new law making racial discrimination and denial of Nazi Holocaust illegal; laws tightened against drug traffickers and illegal immigrants
  • (1995) Swiss Banking Association uncovered dormant pre-1945 bank accounts that contained millions of dollars
  • (1998) Swiss banks agreed $1.25bn compensation deal with Holocaust survivors and families
  • (1999) People's Party, led by Christoph Blocher, became second strongest political force
2000s
  • (2001) Voters rejected moves to open talks on joining European Union; Swiss voted in favor of allowing soldiers to carry weapons during peacekeeping missions abroad; parliament voted in favor of United Nations membership; voters rejected proposal to get rid of its army
  • (2001) Zug massacre took place in city of Zug, 14 people shot dead by Friedrich Leibacher
  • (2002) Narrow majority of Swiss voted in favor of joining the United Nations in a referendum; vote in referendum to decriminalize abortion which would be allowed in first 12 weeks of pregnancy; Switzerland formally a member of the UN; referendum rejected drastic tightening of asylum laws
  • (2003) Swiss voted against abolition of nuclear power, new proposals on rights for the disabled, introduction of car-free Sunday's, but in favor of army cuts and changes to civil defense; parliament agreed to grant right-wing Swiss People's Party second post in seven-seat government at the Christian Democrats expense, altered the "magic formula" that had brought stability to Swiss politics since 1959
  • (2004) Agreement signed with EU on taxing accounts held in Swiss banks by EU taxpayers; voters in a referendum rejected moves to relax strict naturalization laws; referendum voted in favor of allowing scientific research using stem cells taken from human embryos
  • (2005) Voters in referendum supported joining EU Schengen and the Dublin agreements, extended rights for same-sex couples; referendum vote favored opening job market to workers from 10 newest EU countries; referendum backed five-year ban on use of genetically modified crops
  • (2006) Voters in a national referendum backed plans to make Swiss asylum laws among the toughest in the West
  • (2006) Protestors supporting Swiss football club stormed field after losing match, caused extensive property damage, referred to as the Basel Hooligan incident and the "Disgrace of Basel"
  • (2007) In Switzerland's largest corporate trial, Swissair ex-directors were all cleared; Swiss People's Party boosted its standing as the largest group in parliament; Christoph Blocher, one of Swiss People's Party leaders, forced from his cabinet seat; Swiss People's Party quit the governing coalition
  • (2008) Voters rejected referendum initiative to limit naturalization of foreigners by allowing Swiss communes to vote on individual cases; Switzerland unveiled a $5.3bn rescue plan for its largest bank, UBS, that was badly hit by the global credit crisis; Swiss People's Party rejoined the governing coalition with the election of party member Ueli Maurer to the Federal Council
  • (2008) Switzerland scrapped routine passport controls at all borders after joining the EU's Schengen Agreement
  • (2009) Swiss economy officially in recession; Switzerland overtook the U.S. as the world's most competitive economy, reported by the World Economic Forum; Swiss voters approved referendum initiative banning the construction of minarets
  • (2009) New party formed by 150 members, the Pirate Party Switzerland, goals to reform laws regarding copyrights and patents and right to privacy
  • (2009) Film director, Roman Polanski, was taken into custody, faced extradition to the US for sex offender crime
  • (2010) Longest railway tunnel in the world was completed, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, through the Swiss Alps, cost over $10.6 bn
  • (2010) Swiss post office's bank, PostFinance, shut accounts of Wikileaks founder, Julain Assange
  • (2010) Fourth female minister elected to seven-member Federal Council gave Swiss cabinet majority of women for the first time; Swiss voters approved referendum initiative on automatically deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes
  • (2011) Voters rejected referendum that guns could no longer be kept at home, but stored in an arsenal, failed in the German-speaking areas of the country

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.