The Swiss Confederation is a federal republic in Central Europe. It is a member state of the Holy Roman Empire. It is bordered to the West by Burgundy, Geneva and Arles, to the south by Milan and the Grey League. To the East lies Austria-Bohemia and a portion of Liechenstein. To the north are various Imperial states: Palatinate, Hagenau, Luxembourg, Strassburg, Baden, Breisgau, Hohenburg and the Schaffhausen exclave of Austria.
The federal capital is Bern and the population is around 5.6 million.
The official languages are German, French and Italian.
The country has no head of state as such but the chancellor is Jean-Claude Nass.
The Swiss Mark (SWM) is the currency.
Deeply important to the Romans then the Franks after them, the Swiss lands were a great crossroads between Germania and Italia with the Alpine passes convering wealth to those who controlled them. The old Kingdom of Burgundy nominally controlled the Swiss territories but even before its final disintegration in 1263 the Swiss were enjoying great freedom. In the West their immediate lords, the Zahringen dynasty had ended leaving many cities and monastaries as Imperial Free Cities. The great families of Kyburg, Savoy and Hapsburg dominated the Swiss plateau and looked to re-establish a hold on the Zahringen lands. The Kyburg dynasty fell into hard times when the last male heir died in suspicious circumstances in 1287 and during Rudolph of Hapsburg's reign as Emperor he took the opportunity to revoke the freedom of several Swiss cantons. To pay for his wars he imposed heavy taxes and restricted liberties buying up more cities and land from abbeys and monastaries.
On Rudolph's death in 1291 the three forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden rose up against Hapsburg rule. Eager to thwart his enemies, Adolf of Nassau was quick to grant various liberties to the Confederation and these were confirmed when he was crowned the following year. The struggle against the Hapsburgs, whether Imperially sanctioned or not, led to several military victories and the slow growth of those cantons adhering to the 'federal charter' of 1291. They tended to support whichever king or imperial candidate most likely to protect them against the Hapsburg's, helping the Luxembourg Emperors secure their rule throughout much of the 15th. Before that Emperor Olaf granted the core Swiss cantons whatever liberities they wished (some might say he was over generous) so he could safely use the passes to campaign in Italia.
Elsewhere they used the ongoing Swabian wars between Arles and Burgundy to slowly spread 'Swiss' influence over the western reaches where the Genevan cantons were doing much the same. A mooted federation between the Swiss cantons and those of Geneva and the Grey League in the 15th century came to nothing as by that point all three were looking in different directions, Geneva south to face Milan, the Grey League eastwards to face Venice and the Swiss northwards to face the Palatinate.
Pressure from the Hapsburgs declined after Austria was divided three ways in 1379 and the association of Zurich with the federation had largely shut them out of the Swiss plateau. Thereafter the Wittelsbachs and their lieges across southern Germany became the Swiss's main enemies as they began to rub up against Wurttemberg's sphere, the Bernese federation and the Bishop of Basel. A defeat at Waldshut in 1403 forced the cantons into closer alliance, thereafter no canton would declare war without the other's agreement. Palatinate guarantee of the Bishop's lands in 1484 led to the Swiss invading both Basel and, with their agreement, the Decapole cities of Alsace as they allied with Burgundy against the Swabian League. During the so-called Decapole War (1483-1492) which ended in the cities entering the federation, Swiss military prowess became legendary and mercenary companies were highly sought after, surplanting those of Man or Iceland in many Imperial armies. One such unit was contracted by the Pope in pertuity.
The unity which had served the Swiss so well was threatened by the advent of Lutheranism. The cities of the North embraced it while the alpine cantons stuck firmly with Catholicism, and both sides generally made the other sect illegal in their lands. An alliance between the Catholic cantons and the Hapsburgs threatened even more and the defeat of Zurich at the hands of the Catholic cantons in 1534 left the federation with a Catholic majority. To sooth the tensions the Protestant cities of the North had to give up their membership of the Schmalkaldic League while the Catholic south gave up their Hapsburg alliance. As long as the religious status-quo was respected no canton had the right to interfere in another's business. However this arrangment guaranteed that neither the Protestant Grey League nor Calvinist Geneva would ever join the Federation.
The Fifty Years War saw the Swiss federation side with the Protestants, mainly as it was coming under increased pressure from Milan. The Swiss-Milanese War confounded attempts by Austria to secure the passes so it could reinforce Arles. This standoff lasted until Burgundy switched sides in 1628, largely bypassing the problem of the passes. A peace with Milan a year later left the Swiss lands, though not those of the Grey League or Geneva to either side, as an oasis of calm in the Empire. The Protestant cantons would attempt to go to war against Luxembourg several times but were stymied by a lack of unity in the Federation's Diet. Mercenaires were used in great numbers by both sides however. It was only in 1654 as Luxembourg's bloated and ill-disciplined armies sacked Selesat that war resumed. This meant that Aragon's armies could potentially now safely travel Northwards into Germany, a situation Austria was not prepared to allow. By the end of the year Zurich was under siege and the Decapole overrun. The Swiss did not however capitulate and remained largely unconquered until the end of the war. There it was granted with Ostrassburg to link the Decapole into a contiguous canton and the remaining Bishopric of Basel lands whilst releasing the occupied Solothurn and Fricktal to Breisgau. Finally to soothe relations and keep it within the Imperial fold the Bishopric of Basel was elevated to an electorate.
The vulnerability of Ostrassburg meant it was more cautious in war after the Fifty Years War concluded. Lucky victories in the Six Year War (1783-1789) and Eleanor's War (1802-1805) hid a slow military decline. During the Iberian revolution it was pressured by Austria to enter into 'armed neutrality' thereby saving Southern Germany from invasion. This was later confirmed by the Peace of Milan. It has been officially neutral ever since.
GovernmentThe Swiss Confederation is a federal republic. Each canton elects its own government who then sends a representative to form a united government for the entire country.
Each canton is separately represented at the Imperial Diet in Frankfurt, however they tend to vote in a bloc. Behind the scenes however the Swiss are often used as go-betweens and diplomats. Representatives are directly elected by the canton's citizens unlike most other appointed representatives. The Bishop of Basel is an Elector but is forbidden by the terms of the Peace of Milan to use his vote in anything other than a deadlock between the other electors.