IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 5. National Patterns, 1648–1815 > f. The Swiss Confederation
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1648)
f. The Swiss Confederation
The Legacy of the Thirty Years' War: Despite the involvement of Swiss mercenaries, Swiss neutrality during the Thirty Years' War made Switzerland a center for refugees who, along with soldiers, brought the bubonic plague and other diseases into the country. Swiss neutrality also demanded a strong Swiss army, which the Swiss paid for partly through the Defensionale of Wyl (1647). This defensionale strengthened bonds among cantons. The Peace of Westphalia recognized Swiss independence.  1
DEMOGRAPHY: Population remained static during the latter half of the 17th century but grew in the 18th century, climbing from about 1.2 million to 1.7 million.  2
ECONOMICS: As with most of western Europe, mercantilist thought heavily influenced Swiss industry and agriculture (See France). Switzerland sought foreign markets for its products and increased independence from foreign imports. It developed two leading sectors of industry, in the east and west respectively, between 1648 and 1815. Textiles developed largely free from guild regulation and under the influence of French immigrants. Clock making remained regulated by guilds but advanced because of the reputation of Swiss clock makers. Trade also benefited from knowledge of foreign trade gained by Swiss mercenaries. Agriculture made slow progress during much of this period, but the latter half of the 18th century saw a back-to-the-land movement encouraging the foundation of agricultural societies and some improvements in agricultural techniques. Animal husbandry was encouraged by mercantilism, which sought to decrease Swiss wool imports. However, Swiss terrain made farming difficult and Switzerland continued to import agricultural products.  3
SOCIETY: Swiss society reflected the diversity of Swiss cantons—divided by religion and geography. Protestants generally occupied the plain and Catholics the mountainous regions. Peasant life reflected long-standing methods of farming; small family holdings, commons, and continued emphasis on milk production. Cities, on the other hand, generally had strong guilds regulating production and often dependent on the surrounding countryside for agricultural products. While never legally abolished, trials and persecutions for witchcraft came to an end between 1648 and 1815 (Vaud, 1680; Zürich, 1714; Glarus, 1782).  4
GOVERNMENT: The Swiss cantons established a loose federalist government, assuring each canton a large measure of independence. Each canton chose its form of government—ranging from old styles of open-air meetings in forest cantons to elaborate patriarchies and even absolutism. The Swiss diet had 13 seats; the Protestants held 6 of these but demanded recognition because of their economic and military strength.  5
Lucerne. Peasants, led by Nicholas Leuenberg, revolted (Jan.) and demanded relief from taxes and more recognition of tenant rights. Leuenberg amassed an army of 16,000 but was defeated by federal forces at Wohlenschwil and surrendered on June 8; the terms of their surrender were renounced.  6
Proposals for the establishment of a more centralized state, put forward by Zürich, were defeated by the Catholic cantons.  7
The Catholic canton of Schwyz threatened the Protestants within its borders with suppression. Some fled to Zürich but the remainder were persecuted and, in three cases, turned over to the Inquisition in Milan. Zürich demanded that Schwyz restore Protestant land and possessions. Schwyz refused and demanded the return of Protestant refugees.  8
This conflict escalated into the FIRST VILLMERGEN WAR. Bern and Zürich declared war against five Catholic cantons. The Protestants were defeated at Villmergen (Jan. 24), reaffirming each canton's right to determine religious activity. However, Protestant and Catholic conflicts continued.  9
Renewal of the alliance with France, enabling Louis XIV to draw mercenaries from the cantons despite opposition from Zürich and some of the Protestant cantons.  10
During more than a century there was no meeting of the federal diet, indicating the almost complete collapse of the federal connection.  11
Franche-Comté (Treaty of Nimwegen) (See 1678–79), hitherto under federal protection, was annexed to France.  12
The Protestant cantons agreed to supply soldiers to the Dutch and later to the English. The Catholic cantons responded, agreeing to supply men to the Spaniards.  13
Efforts to extend the franchise in Geneva to include more men were put down.  14
A popular insurrection in Geneva, led by Peter Fatio, was suppressed with the aid of the Bern and Zürich oligarchies.  15
The house of Hohenzollern succeeded to the principality of Neuchâtel. Louis XIV was prevented by the war (See 1701–14) from pressing the claims of the prince of Conti.  16
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.