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History of Switzerland

Since 1848 the Swiss Confederation has been a federal republic of autonomous cantons, some of which have a history of confederacy that goes back more than 700 years, putting them among the world's oldest surviving republics. The early history of the region is tied to that of Alpine culture. Switzerland was inhabited by the Helvetii, it came under Roman rule in the 1st century BC. Gallo-Roman culture was amalgamated with Germanic influence during Late Antiquity, with the eastern part of Switzerland becoming Alemannic territory; the area of Switzerland was incorporated in the Frankish Empire in the 6th century. In the high medieval period, the eastern part became part of the Duchy of Swabia within the Holy Roman Empire while the western part was part of Burgundy; the Old Swiss Confederacy in the late medieval period established its independence from the House of Habsburg and the Duchy of Burgundy, in the Italian Wars gained territory south of the Alps from the Duchy of Milan. The Swiss Reformation divided the Confederacy and resulted in a drawn-out history of internal strife between the Thirteen Cantons in the Early Modern period.

In the wake of the French Revolution, Switzerland fell to a French invasion in 1798 and was reformed into the Helvetic Republic, a French client state. Napoleon's Act of Mediation in 1803 restored the status of Switzerland as a Confederation, after the end of the Napoleonic period, the Swiss Confederation underwent a period of turmoil culminating in a brief civil war in 1847 and the creation of a federal constitution in 1848; the history of Switzerland since 1848 has been one of success and prosperity. Industrialisation transformed the traditionally agricultural economy, Swiss neutrality during the World Wars and the success of the banking industry furthered the ascent of Switzerland to its status as one of the world's most stable economies. Switzerland signed a free-trade agreement with the European Economic Community in 1972, has participated in the process of European integration by way of bilateral treaties, but it has notably resisted full accession to the European Union though its territory has been surrounded by EU member states since 1995.

Archeological evidence suggests that hunter-gatherers were settled in the lowlands north of the Alps in the Middle Paleolithic period 150,000 years ago. By the Neolithic period, the area was densely populated. Remains of Bronze Age pile dwellings from as early as 3800 BC have been found in the shallow areas of many lakes. Around 1500 BC, Celtic tribes settled in the area; the Raetians lived in the eastern regions. In 58 BC, the Helvetii tried to evade migratory pressure from Germanic tribes by moving into Gaul, but were defeated by Julius Caesar's armies and sent back; the alpine region became integrated into the Roman Empire and was extensively romanized in the course of the following centuries. The center of Roman administration was at Aventicum. In 259, Alamanni tribes overran the Limes, putting the settlements on Swiss territory on the frontier of the Roman Empire; the first Christian bishoprics were founded in the fourth century. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Germanic tribes entered the area.

Burgundians settled in the west. Burgundy became a part of the kingdom of the Franks in 534. In the Alaman-controlled region, only isolated Christian communities continued to exist and Irish monks re-introduced the Christian faith in the early 7th century. Under the Carolingian kings, the feudal system proliferated, monasteries and bishoprics were important bases for maintaining the rule; the Treaty of Verdun of 843 assigned Upper Burgundy to Lotharingia, Alemannia to the eastern kingdom of Louis the German which would become part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 10th century, as the rule of the Carolingians waned, Magyars destroyed Basel in 917 and St. Gallen in 926. Only after the victory of King Otto I over the Magyars in 955 in the Battle of Lechfeld, were the Swiss territories reintegrated into the empire. In the 12th century, the dukes of Zähringen were given authority over part of the Burgundy territories which covered the western part of modern Switzerland, they founded many cities, including Fribourg in 1157, Bern in 1191.

The Zähringer dynasty ended with the death of Berchtold V in 1218, their cities subsequently became reichsfrei, while the dukes of Kyburg competed with the house of Habsburg over control of the rural regions of the former Zähringer territory. Under the Hohenstaufen rule, the alpine passes in Raetia and the St Gotthard Pass gained importance; the latter became an important direct route through the mountains. Uri and Schwyz were accorded the Reichsfreiheit to grant the empire direct control over the mountain pass. Most of the territory of Unterwalden at this time belonged to monasteries which had become reichsfrei; the extinction of the Kyburg dynasty paved the way for the Habsburg dynasty to bring much of the territory south of the Rhine under their control, aiding their rise to power. Rudolph of Habsburg, who became King of Germany in 1273 revoked the status of Reichsfreiheit granted to the "Forest Cantons" of Uri and Unterwalden; the Forest Cantons thus were governed by reeves. On 1 August 1291, the cantons of Uri and Unterwalden united to defend the peace upon the death of Emperor Rudolf I of Habsburg, forming the nucl

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