Demographic History of Switzerland

Note : this page is conceived telegram-style and selective (lists of wars deemed destructive, lists of epidemic diseases, years of famine etc.)

Aging Society
Deportation & Genocide
Ethnic Minorities : General Comment
Religious Minorities : General Comment, Anabaptists, Jews
Epidemic, Pandemic Diseases
Labour Migration : Immigration, Emigration
Political Refugees : Emigrants, Immigrants
Population Statistics
Rural Population
Volunteers in Foreign Wars
Wartime Destruction : Battleground Switzerland

Aging Society
Republic : Due to a decrease in the birth rate and increasing life expectancy, since the 1960es the average age of the Swiss citizen has gradually increased.

Deportation & Genocide
Episodic expulsion of Jews : Switzerland 1491, Princebishopric of Basel 1694

Ethnic Minorities : General Comment
Due to the traditionally federal constitution of Switzerland, it makes more sense to refer to cantonal and federal minorities. Prior to 1798 / 1848 there were, among the native Swiss population, privileged entities / ethnic groups, and subject ethnic groups. For the German Swiss, French Swiss, Italian Swiss and the Romansch, the user is asked to look up the respective canton history.

Religious Minorities : General Comment
Due to the traditionally federal constitution of Switzerland, it makes more sense to refer to cantonal and federal minorities. Prior to 1798 / 1848 there were, among the native Swiss population, privileged entities / religious groups, and subject religious groups. For the Swiss Catholics and Swiss Calvinist Protestants, the user is asked to look into the various canton history.

Religious Minorities : Anabaptists
The Anabaptist movement emerged in Zürich 1525; Schleitheim Confession 1527; suppressed by Zürich authorities since 1527. Communities sought geographical isolation. In 1693 Amish community established. Many emigrated in the early 18th century, to Pennsylvania. By the time the spirit of religious toleration spread, few communities still existed; in 1999 13 communities with c.2,500 members were counted.

Religious Minorities : Jews
Jews first are recorded in cities in the 12th century, where they took up residence under royal protection. Earliest pogrom on record Bern 1294; further pogroms in Switzerland 1348-1350, Zürich c.1354, Fribourg 1356, Basel 1362, Schaffhausen 1369-1370, Biel and Bern 1375. 1491 expulsion of the Jews from Swiss territory. Jews did continue to reside in some locations in / near Switzerland; 1694 they were expelled from the Princebishopric of Basel. In Geneva Jews enjoyed emancipation 1802-1814 (city part of France). From late 18th century a number of Jewish communities existed, based on 'protection letters'. Only in 1866-1874 were Swiss Jews granted the right to take up residence anywhere in Switzerland, without restriction.
Anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia from 1881 onward, a culture of vitriolic Anti-Semitism in Germany after World War I resulted in the immigration of Jews from Eastern and Central Europe. Switzerland meanwhile enjoyed the reputation of tolerance and freedom from militant nationalism, which made it the perfect choice for the First Zionist Congress held in Basel in 1871.

Epidemic, Pandemic Diseases
1439 Plague in Bern and Basel
1502 Plague in Basel
1511-1512 Plague in Val Mustair, Graubünden
1565 Plague in Bern
1615-1616 Plague in Geneva
1630 Plague in Val Mustair, Graubünden
1668 Plague in Basel
1849 Cholera in Ticino
1854-1855 Cholera in Switzerland
1867 Cholera in Ticino, Zürich
1918 Spanish Influenza
1983- AIDS

1094 Great Famine
1438 Great Famine
1529 Zürich's grain sale boycott against the Forest Cantons caused the latter to take up arms (1st War of Kappel)
1530 Great Famine
1531 Zürich's grain sale boycott against the Forest Cantons caused the latter to take up arms (2nd War of Kappel)
1571-1574 Great Famine
1586-1591 Great Famine
1622-1623 Famine in Val Mustair, Graubünden
1635-1636 Great Famine
1648-1652 Great Famine
1690-1694 Great Famine
1770-1771 Great Famine
1816-1817 Great Famine
1845-1848 Potato Famine
1860 Famine in Glarus
1917-1918 Food Rationing
1939-1945 Food Rationing

Labour Migration : Immigration
1880es- : Swiss success in the Second Industrial Revolution triggered immigration of Germans, Frenchmen, Italians etc.
1950es-1970es : Boom Economy attracted a large number of labour immigrants
In times of economic crisis xenophobia became apparent (riots Bern 1893, Zürich 1896; closure of border to Jewish refugees 1938; discussion of the foreignization of Switzerland since the late 1960es.

Labour Migration : Emigration
1660-1740 : Emigration into the Alsace, Franche Comte, Palatinate, Württemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, attracted by privileges for immigrants
1690es- : Emigration overseas, mainly to what was to become the United States; intensifying from the introduction of steam-powered ocean vessels
Late 19th Century : Emigration to France

Political Refugees : Emigrants
Jews, on numerous occasions (see above)
Anabaptists, on numerous occasions (see above)

Political Refugees : Immigrants (in part temporary)
1549-1560 Protestant refugees
1562-1598 Calvinist refugees from France, mainly to Geneva
1681-1686 Huguenot refugees from France, Waldensians from Piemont
1792-1798 French Royalists (Emigres)
1815- German, Italian liberals
1831- Poles
1849- German, French, Italian, Hungarian liberals
1864- Poles
1870-1871 Alsatians
c. 1870- Socialists
1914-1918 Pacifists, Deserters
1922- Italian Socialists, Communists
1933- Germans
1936-1939 Spaniards
1938- Austrians; Jews of various nationalities
1956 Hungarians
1968 Czechoslovaks
1975-1983 Vietnamese, Boat People
1981-1990 Poles

Population Statistics
Censi 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1889, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990

Rural Population
In Switzerland serfdom existed in the High Middle Ages; in the mountain valley cantons and in the areas dominated by cities it became irerelevant in the Later Middle Ages, but lived on for instance in eastern Vaud or in St. Gallen. Peasant rebellions often were fought with the object to abolish serfdom; they have acheived in some cases the abolition of serf's obligations, but not of serfdom itself. By the 17th century the institution of serfdom had, on Swis soil, practicably lost any meaning. It was abolished with feudalism in 1798 / 1848.
Thus serfdom was not an obstacle to urbanization in the earlier phases of the Industrial Revolution.

Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Sion (Sitten) were seats of bishops, St. Gallen of a powerful abbot. Zürich, Bern, Luzern, Basel rose to importance as trade centers, Zürich being strategically located at the northern end of the route crossing the Alps to Milan. The wealth these cities acquired in the 13th to 15th century permitted the cities of Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Luzern, Schaffhausen, Zug and Zürich to acquire the surrounding countriside and create statelets more or less corresponding to the modern cantons by that name.
In the late 19th century Switzerland was greatly affected by the Second Industrial Revolution; cities developed into rapidly growing industrial centers, attracting immigrants from trhe surrounding countryside as well as from abroad.

Volunteers in Foreign Wars
1477-1815 Swiss mercenaries serving in Italy and France

Wartime Destruction : Battlefield Switzerland
1474-1477 Burgundian War
1499 Swabian War
1513 Luzern Peasant War
1529 First War of Kappel
1531 Second War of Kappel
1536 Bernese Conquest of Geneva
1620-1637 Graubünden Troubles
1653 Swiss Peasant War
1656 First War of Villmergen
1712 Second War of Villmergen
1799-1801 Second War of the Coalition
1802 Rebellion against the Helvetic Republic
1847 Sonderbund War

Schweizer Geschichte : die Industrielle Revolution
Geschichtlicher Ausflug, from Bern Geschichte
Shortage - Crisis - Famines ? Nutrition Conditions in Southern Germany and Northern Switzerland from the Neolithic until the 19th Century, by M.N. Haidle
Brände und Elementarereignisse im Kanton Graubünden after N. Caviezel
Die Geschichte des Val Mustair
Basel : Siedlungs- und Bevölkerungsentwicklung, from Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz; see also articles Cholera, Epidemien, Grippe, Hungersnöte, Judentum, Auswanderung, Einwanderung, Leibeigenschaft
Die Einwanderung in die Schweiz im 20. Jahrhundert (Immigration into Switzerland in the 20th Century), from Sozialarchiv, in German
REFERENCE B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted om May 24th 2008, last revised on June 13th 2008

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