A brief history of the Switzerland

Switzerland was inhabited from the paleolithic age. Neolithic stone cutting tools were found in the Cotencher Cave in the Canton of Neuchâtel.  La Tène culture (see Celtic Tribes) emerged  around 800 BCE. The site of La Tène (north-east of Neuchâtel) had given its name to the late iron age celtic tribal culture and its spread in the western part of the Eurasian continent.

A celtic tribe called Helvetians existed in the central plateau of Switzerland. They struck gold coins imitating gold staters of Philip II and Alexander III. After the roman conquest of the area in the first century BCE, local celtic coinage stopped and roman coins circulated in the region for next four centuries. Helvetians were assimilated into the Roman civilization in the first two centuries of last millennium.

In 260 CE, the Alemannians (a germanic tribe) crossed the fortified northern roman boundary (limes) and settled in the area. German became the language of lands occupied by the Alemannians. Burgundians settled in the west and adopted the Latin as their language. Later, the vulgar Latin evolved into Franco-Provencal dialect spoken today in that region. Rhaetian Romans established themselves over much of eastern Switzerland ( South Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Friuli.) Later, they withdrew into high Grisons valleys to live autonomously and preserving Rheto-Roman (Romansh) language.  Lombard (Langobard) tribes settled in southern Switzerland thus the southern valleys speak Gallo-Italian Lombard dialects.

During the 6th century, the Franks conquered  the Burgundians and the Alemannians. Merovingian gold tremisses were produced at Basel, Geneva, Sitten and Zurich. Later the area became a part of the Carolingian empire and silver deniers were produced at Chur, and Zurich. In the 9th & 10th centuries the German emperors issued coins at Chur and Zurich. During the middle Ages, the Swiss territory was included in the great body of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 11th to 13th century bracteate pfennings were made. Decline in the power of the Holy Roman Empire facilitated the Swiss territory to become autonomous. Cities of Freiburg and Lucenrn produced gold ducats in the 15th century.  Austrian House of Habsburg emerged as a power house of Europe in the 13th century and threatened the autonomy of the Swiss territory.

On the 1st of August 1291 CE, the representatives of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden (the so called Ur-Kantone ) met on a small mountain named "Rütli"  to conclude a permanent alliance with an oath  - "We will be a one and only nation of brothers to last, if God will, forever". This lead to the  Eidgenossenschaft  ( the confederation ).  This confederation did not propose to disobey the overlords but rejected any administrative and judicial system imposed from the outside. Its original text is carefully preserved at Schwyz (Federaln Charters Museum).  Lucerne in 1332,  Zurichin in 1351, Glarus and Zug in 1352, Berne in 1353 joined the confederation. By the end of the 14th century, the Swiss Confederation was on its way to becoming an independent state within the Holy Roman Empire. First gold gulden were made at Basel (1411 CE) under the Holy Roman Empire. Freibourg, Solothurn, Basle, Schaffhausen and Appenzell cantons joined the Confederation in 1481 CE. Base silver Plapparts were produced in the cities of Bern, Freiburg, Lucerne and Zurich. Berne produced the first swiss thaler in 1490 CE. The Swiss gained independence from the Holy Roman Empire after defeating Maximilian I at Dornach in 1499 CE. Basel and Schaffhausen joined the Swiss Federation  in 1501 and Appenzell joined in 1513 CE.

In 1513 CE,  the Swiss Confederation was at its peak and over aggressive. They went to war against a superior combined force of French and Venetians at Marignano in 1515 and lost. At that point of time, the Swiss decided to withdraw from the international scene and declaring their neutrality. They still remain a neutral nation to this day in the international politics.

This neutrality protects them to this day from their unethical secretive banking laws and providing the safe heaven for the ill-gotten and tax evaded money of some political leaders and some business men & women of all other countries. Swiss people attained a high living standards through dealing with such ill-gotten and blood money of most nations.

 In 1525, the Reformation was launched in Zurich by Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), a secular priest at the cathedral.  The Reformation split the Swiss Confederation into two camps, a league of Catholic cantons and the Protestant cities. However, Switzerland declared itself as an independent nation in 1648 CE.  Religious disputes arose in Switzerland in the form of the Villmergen Wars of 1656 and 1712 CE. Catholic cantons were allied with France but the conservative Catholic factions reluctantly agreed to religious freedom.

In 1798, French revolutionary troops marched into Switzerland and set up a Helvetian Republic. All canton mints were closed and established unified coinage system.

10 Rappen = 1 Batzen
10 Batzen = 1 Franc

Minting right of all the cantons were restored in 1803. They resumed minting local coins but had to conform to the uniform system established under the Helvetian Republic. Sankt Gallen, Graubünden, Thurgau, Ticino, Aargau and Vaud join the Swiss Federation in 1803. The Congress of Vienna (1815) restored the neutral sovereign state of Switzerland. Valais, Neuchâtel and Genéve join the Swiss Federation in 1815.

In 1830, the Catholic cantons of central Switzerland united their forces in a military defense pact known as the Sonderbund. After a brief campaign, the federal troops occupied Lucerne in 1847.  In 1848, a federal constitution (Bundesverfassung) is set up and the Swiss Federation changed from a Union of States to a Confederation. The Swiss Federal state of 1848 marked the end of 18 years of the internal conflict. The cantons stopped minting coins and they were replaced by uniform national coinage.

100 Rappen = 1 Franc

A new federal constitution was promulgated in 1874 CE and design of the coins changed. Head of Helvetia replaced the Figure on the obverse side of the coins.

The people and cantons of Switzerland had accepted a popular initiative on Swiss membership of the United Nations.  Switzerland was declared a full member of the United Nations on the 10th september 2002.

Aargau    1803-48 CE
Appenzell    1737-1848
Basel    c1000-1848
Bern    1218-1848
Chur    1529-1766
Freiburg    1422-1848
Geneva    1535-1848
Glarus    1798-1848
Graubunden    1600-1848
Haldenstein    1612-1798
Luzern    1415-1848
Neuchatel    1342-1848
Rheinau    1797-1848
St.Gall    1415-1848
Schaffhausen    1300-1658
Schwyz    1624-1848
Sitten    999-1798
Solothurn    1500-1848
Thurgau    1803-48
Ticino    1803-48
Unterwalden    1700-1848
Uri        1700-1848
Vaud    1803-48
Zofingen    1700-1848
Zug    1564-1848
Zurich    1425-1848

Helvetian Republic    1798-1803


Circulation coins       1850 - 74       1875 - Present

Commemorative coins

1901-35 1936 1939 1941 1944 1948 1955 1963 1974 1974
1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983
1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

Shooting Festival Commemorative coins

1855        1857        1859        1861        1863        1865        1867        1869        1872        1874        1876        1879        1881        1883        1885

1934        1939        1984        1985        1986        1987        1988        1989        1990        1991        1992        1993        1994        1995        1996

1997        1998        1999        2000        2001        2002


Dieter, Fahrni.,  An Outline History of Switzerland - From the Origins to the Present Day,   Arts Council of Switzerland, Zurich, Switzerland 1994.

Luck, J. M.,  A History of Switzerland - The First 100,000 Years: Before the Beginnings to the Days of the Present, SPOSS inc, Palo Alto, USA 1985.


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RK. December 28, 2002.