country in WC Europe, in the Alps: 15,942 sq mi (41,290 sq km); cap. Bern
A country of west-central Europe. The region was conquered by Germanic tribes in the 5th century and by Swabia and Burgundy in the 9th, becoming part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1033. Protesting Habsburg control in the 13th century, the Swiss formed a defense league made up of cantons that became the basis of their confederation, and by 1499 they had achieved independence. The Reformation in the 16th century led to religious civil wars that lasted through the next two centuries. The French took brief control of Switzerland during the French Revolution, but the confederacy was restored in 1815. Switzerland later adopted a federal constitution (1848) and maintained a policy of neutrality through both world wars. Bern is the capital and Zurich the largest city.