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History of Switzerland: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Medieval castles, the Roman Empire and William Tell are just a few topics you will learn about in this lesson about Swiss history. Find out what makes Switzerland a unique country!

Swiss History

Step back in time to the Chateau de Chillon (pronounced shee-yon) in Switzerland. This castle could be the backdrop to one of your favorite fairytales! Set on a small, rocky island with Lake Geneva surrounding it, this medieval castle was once home to three noble families. It has damp dungeons and was the inspiration for many writers, including Lord Byron. It was also a stopping-point for traders traveling from England and France to Rome in the 13th century. Yes, Switzerland has a fascinating history!

Chateau de Chillon
Chateau

Where Is Switzerland?

How many languages do you speak? In Switzerland there are three official languages including German, French and Italian. This is because Switzerland is located in the center of Europe and surrounded by Germany, France, Italy and Austria.

Map of Switzerland
Swiss

The Helvetians

Have you ever seen a house built on stilts? The earliest Swiss settlers built homes called pile dwellings which were structures set on stilts along lakeshores. The most famous of these Celtic tribes were the Helvetians who thrived from 500 BC to 400 AD.

The Romans

In 58 BC, the Helvetians wanted to move south toward France, but were stopped by Julius Caesar leading the Roman army. The Helvetians had nowhere to go and the Romans took control of Switzerland. The Romans built roads, schools and towns. Switzerland was an important stop during the trade routes.

The Middle Ages

If you were a peasant during the Middle Ages, 476 AD-1500, your life wouldn't be much fun! Most people living in the Middle Ages were peasants working six days a week to serve the lords who owned the land. Serfs, the lowest class of the feudal system, had no more rights than slaves. In Switzerland, the counts, or nobles of Habsburg, owned much of the land. In fact, the Habsburg family ruled the Holy Roman Empire. But the Swiss peasants rebelled! Legend says that William Tell refused to accept the Habsburgs' control. Three Swiss valleys banded together and drove out the Habsburgs. The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291.

A Safe Haven

Imagine living in a home surrounded by tall, majestic mountains. It isn't easy to leave. And it's also not easy for people to enter. The Alps, Europe's highest mountain range, are one of Switzerland's best resources!

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