Ca. 100,000 BCE
First traces of Homo erectus on what is now Swiss territory.
Ca. 4,300 BCE
First lakeshore settlements in what is now Switzerland.
Between 200 and 100 BCE
Helvetians settle in the region that is now Switzerland.
Helvetians defeated at Bibracte; beginning of Roman rule.
1st century BCE
The regions settled by Celts, including the Helvetians, in what is now Switzerland are gradually incorporated into the provinces of the Roman Empire.
4th to 7th centuries
Conversion to Christianity of regions that would later become Switzerland.
5th to 6th centuries
During the great migration of the 5th and 6th centuries, Alemannic and Burgundian tribes settle the Mittelland plateau, leading to the gradual emergence of the Germanic-Romance language border.
6th to 9th century
Frankish rule of the area that would become Switzerland.
After the fall of Frankish rule, the regions that will one day become Switzerland belong to the Holy Roman Empire, which is ruled by a German-speaking emperor.
Renewal of a peace alliance between Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. In the late 19th century, this charter is interpreted as the foundation of the Swiss Confederation.
Alliances between the forest cantons of central Switzerland with the imperial cities of Zurich and Bern, leading to the gradual formation of the “confederation of eight” (Zurich, Bern, Luzern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Glarus).
Confederation’s victory over the Habsburgs at Sempach
Conquest of Aargau, previously a Habsburg possession. Beginning of the common domains.
The Old Zurich War between the canton of Zurich and the other seven cantons of the Confederation.
Foundation of the University of Basel.
After the victory over Duke Charles the Bold in the Burgundian Wars, Solothurn and Fribourg join the Confederation.
Swabian War and Peace of Basel
Basel and Schaffhausen join the Confederation.
Appenzell joins the “Thirteen-Canton Confederation”, which exists until 1798 surrounded by “associated territories” whose envoys regularly meet at the Swiss Diet.
The defeat at Marignano and the Perpetual Peace with France put an end to the southward expansion of the Confederation (common domains in Ticino, Grisons Freestate rule over Valtellina). From now on, the Swiss cantons will only intervene in European conflicts as suppliers of mercenaries.
Ulrich Zwingli launches the Swiss Reformation in Zurich; Bern, St Gallen, Basel and Schaffhausen follow soon thereafter.
Kappel religious wars between Catholics and Protestants; death of Zwingli.
With the help of Fribourg, Bern conquers Vaud, which was under Savoyard rule.
Jean Calvin brings the Reformation to Geneva.
Catholic cantons form an alliance with Spain. At the same time various special alliances are established between Protestant cantons and foreign powers until the 18th century. Only the mercenary alliance with France encompasses, from the 17th century onwards, all cantons and associated territories.
Failed Savoyard attack to reconquer Geneva (Escalade).
In the wake of the Peace of Westphalia, the sovereignty of the Confederation is gradually recognised under international law. The Confederation also quickly comes to see itself as neutral and to declare its neutrality.
Besides agricultural products and mercenaries, cottage industries in textiles and watch-making become increasingly important for the export sector.”
Serf rebellions break out, particularly in Vaud. French troops march into Switzerland. The old Thirteen-Canton Confederation collapses and the Helvetic Republic is founded as a centralised unitary state governed by representative democracy and equality before the law. The system of lord-serf relations is abolished.
Switzerland becomes a theatre of the War of Coalition waged by the European monarchies against the French Republic.
After the civil wars between conservative federalists and supporters of the Helvetic Republic, Napoleon’s Mediation Constitution restores the independence of the cantons and creates six new cantons within borders that are in effect to this day: St. Gallen, Graubünden, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino and Vaud.
The Congress of Vienna incorporates the three new cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva into Switzerland and expands the canton of Bern by awarding it the French-speaking territories of the former bishopric of Basel in the Jura. The European Great Powers also recognise Switzerland’s internal and external borders and its perpetual neutrality.
The Regeneration movement with new and liberal constitutions in the cantons, in particular in the early industrial Mittelland (Swiss Plateau).
The Spanish Brötli railway (named after the Spanish bread rolls from Baden that could now be delivered fresh to Zurich breakfast tables): beginning of railway construction in Switzerland.
After years of internal political conflicts, federal troops under General Guillaume-Henri Dufour siding with the liberal majority of the Swiss Diet defeat the Catholic-conservative forces of the Sonderbund (“Separatist League”) which aimed to defend the sovereignty of the individual cantons.
Creation of the federal state by the Federal Constitution; Bern becomes the capital of Switzerland
Introduction of the Swiss franc, unification of currencies, weights and measures.
Foundation of the Red Cross
The Swiss people approve the revised Federal Constitution which, among other things, introduces the optional referendum.
The Federal Factory Act guarantees the protection of workers.
Inauguration of the Gotthard Railway Tunnel
Introduction of the popular initiative. In addition to six federal councillors from the Liberal Democratic Party, the first Catholic-Conservative politician joins the Federal Council.
Foundation of the Swiss Federal Railways as a result of the merger of private railway companies
First World War, mobilisation under General Ulrich Wille.
General strike. Introduction of the system of proportional representation for the National Council elections. End of the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party in Parliament.
Switzerland joins the League of Nations, with headquarters in Geneva.
In the wake of the world economic crisis, fascist groups and communists attract followers, but parliamentary democracy succeeds in asserting itself. For example, in 1935 it defeats an initiative for a total revision of the Federal Constitution and in the 1940s, it integrates the Socialist Party into the government system (a socialist party candidate joins the Federal Council for the first time in 1943).
Second World War: mobilisation under General Henri Guisan, who starting in 1940 implements the policy of preparing for a retreat to a “Réduit” (redoubt) in the Alps in the case of an invasion. From June 1940 onwards, Switzerland is nearly encircled by the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy, and by 1942 it is completely surrounded. But Switzerland is not attacked and emerges from the hostilities largely unscathed.
Introduction of the Old Age and Survivors Insurance.
Allocation of the seven Federal Council seats according to the “magic formula”: (two seats for the Social Democratic Party (SP), two for the Liberal Democratic Party of Switzerland (FDP), two for the Conservative Christian Social People’s Party (now the Christian Democratic Party, CVP), and one for the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BGB, now the Swiss People’s Party (SVP)).
Switzerland is one of the founding members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Switzerland joins the Council of Europe as its 17th member state.
Women gain the right to vote at the federal level.
Free Trade Agreement with the European Community (EC)
Participation in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), which would later become the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Three French-speaking Catholic districts in the canton of Bern are formed into the new canton of Jura.
Swiss voters approve a new matrimonial law founded on the principle of an equal partnership.
Swiss voters reject Switzerland’s accession to the European Economic Area (EEA).
Adoption of the revised Federal Constitution.
Swiss voters approve the Bilateral Agreements I between Switzerland and the European Union.
Switzerland joins the UN
End of the “magic formula”: the Christian Democratic Party (CVP) loses a Federal Council Seat to the Swiss People’s Party (SVP). In 2007, the SVP is forced to cede this seat to the newly founded Conservative Democratic Party (BDP).
Adoption of the Schengen and Dublin agreements with the European Union (Bilateral Agreements II).
In the wake of the international banking crisis, the Swiss financial centre comes under sustained economic and political pressure (government bailout of UBS, abolition of banking secrecy, tax treaties, legal action over tax evasion). In response, Switzerland draws up a “clean money” strategy in 2012.