1648 - Formal Recognition of Independent Switzerland

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The northern Swiss Plateau was settled by the Alemanni when they moved into the void left by a crumbling Western Roman Empire in 406A.D. By the end of the 1st millennium, the Alemanni had become part of the Frankish empire, under which the Duchy of Alamannia, later becoming the Duchy of Swabia, extended its influence across a large part of what was to become Switzerland - the cities of Freiburg in Germany and Bern in Switzerland both owe their foundation to the Swabian Zähringen family.

Expansion of the Old Swiss Confederacy 13th - 16th centuriesIt was the Swabian Holy Roman Emperors - the Hohenstaufens - who first granted large parts of what was to become Switzerland 'Imperial Immediacy'. This placed them under direct control of the Holy Roman Emperor, free from the authority of any local lord. Following the collapse of the Swabian Dynasty in the 13th century the ascendant House of Habsburg, with its origins in Swabia but now rulers of the Archduchy of Austria, made several attempts to bring the Swiss cantons under their personal control.

In defending their independence the Swiss soon gained a reputation for martial prowess (to the extent that Pope Julius II recruited them as the Papal guard in 1506, a service the Swiss Guard performs to this day). Following victory over an Habsburg army in the Swabian War of 1499, the Old Swiss Confederacy won a de facto independence within the Holy Roman Empire, and quickly grew to 13 members. In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 which ends the Thirty Years' War, Switzerland is formally recognised as an independent nation. 

Today, spoken Swiss German - an Alemannic dialect - is one of the four languages spoken in Switzerland, and the most used (64% of Swiss are Swiss German speaking). Compared to other former Alemannic regions, Switzerland is the only area where an Alemannic dialect is a primary language rather than an endangered, restricted, or otherwise subsidiary dialect.

Image Credit: Map showing the growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the 13th to 16th centuries -

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Alamanicus is wandering his old Alemanni haunts, revisiting the places where once he used to drink, carouse, and beat up the odd Roman legionnaire or two. Things have moved on since his day, and the old Alemanni country now lies across south west Germany, French Alsace, and northern Switzerland. Cut through by the mighty Rhine, it is an area of great beauty, and a lot has happened there since Alamanicus last walked this land.


  • Guest
    Lederstrumpf Saturday, 14 December 2013

    The Alamannic Dialect in Colonial America

    It is my understanding that the Alemannic dialect is also known as the "High German" dialect. People who spoke that dialect migrated to America where it is called "High Dutch". In the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York it was known as "Mohawk Dutch" in Colonial America. In Pennsylvania is is called "Pennsylvania Dutch".

    Alamanicus, do you know the story of Lederstrumpf? Lederstrumpf spoke Mohawk Dutch and he was a Mohawk Palatine Warrior. On August 6, 1777, Mohawk Palatine Warriors, who spoke Mohawk Dutch as their primary language, fought the turning point battle of the American Revolution. In other words - the most important single battle in American history was fought by Germans that spoke the Alamannic dialect.

    Would you like to know more? Let me know Alamanicus. I can tell you where to find the Elwedritschen and much more on journey down a unique trail of history.

  • alamanicus
    alamanicus Monday, 16 December 2013

    RE:The Alamannic Dialect in Colonial America

    Lederstrumpf is a fictional character, correct? But I've been reading about the German Palatines now, who were refugees from German Palatine (Rheinland-Pfalz), Switzerland, and Alsace (which at the time was of cource a German territory) displaced by the wars of the 17th century that devastated south west Germany. Haven't yet learned about their role in the American revolution, but the Germans and the British, we do like to duke it out every now and again. :-)

    I'm not sure about the Alemannic dialect being "High German". In my rather pathetic efforts to learn German, I regularly hear about "Hoch Deutsch", which is the German equivalent of the "Queen's English", i.e. the very correct way to speak the language, and the form that I struggle with daily. Hoch Deutsch is native to the area around Hanover, in northern Germany (and where the current British royal family can trace their roots to). In the south west any native speaker can leave me absolutely baffled simply by throwing in the odd Alemmanishism or two. :-(

    Always eager to learn more about Alemmanic history.

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Autumnal Glow in Müllheim by Alamanicus