Swiss Peasant Revolt, 1653

The Swiss Cantons of Luzern (in English sometimes spelled Lucerne), Solothurn (in French : Soleure), Bern and Basel were ruled by city ouncils, the peasants of the surrounding countryside were mere subjects, as were most of the city's burghers, excluded from the respective city council, which was dominated by a small number of families. The families which qualified for membership in the city council regarded themselves an elite and tried to imitate the lifestyle of the landed nobility (aristocratization). Luzern was Catholic, as was Solothurn; Bern and Basel were Calvinist.
The increased burden in taxation, direct or indirect, in combination with an economic crisis (the end of the 30 Years' War, although the war did not affect Switzerland directly) caused the peasants in the Canton Luzern to revolt in May 1653, beginning in the village of Entlebuch. Particularly the coinage of underweight coins (Batzen) in Bern, Solothurn and Fribourg infuriated the peasants. The revolt spread into parts of the Canton Bern, the Cantons Solothurn and Basel, thus becoming a Swiss rather than a cantonal affair.
The authorities suppressed the revolt in June 1653 (Skirmish at Wohlenschwil, May 24th/June 3rd 1653 - the Catholic Cantons used the Gregorian Calendar, the Protestant Cantons the Julian Calendar). In the Treaty of Mellingen, peace was restored; rebel leaders were executed, others were banned, the communities involved in the rebellion fined.

Article Bauernkrieg 1653, from Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, in German
Die Bauernkriege, from Schweizer Geschichte
DOCUMENTS Bauernkrieg 1653: Ausgewahlte Dokumente (Peasant War of 1653, Selected Documents), posted by Staatsarchiv Luzern
Texte und Bilder zum Grossen Schweizerischen Bauernkrieg von 1653 (Texts and Images on the Great Swiss Peasant War of 1653), posted by Eduard Muster, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 27th 2004, last revised on November 19th 2004

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