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The history of the Swiss Army

The origins of the Swiss Army date back to the late Middle Ages. The militia army founded on general national conscription is relatively young by comparison.


Switzerland's defence systems were once the responsibility of individual towns and cantons. A properly organised army first came into existence during the Helvetic era (1798-1803). The development of a confederate army was one of the main items on Switzerland's political agenda during the decades after 1798. In 1815, Europe's major powers recognised the neutrality and independence of the Swiss Confederation. Consequentially, national defence – assuring domestic law and order and defending the territory of the Swiss Confederation – advanced to become a definitive strategic objective of the army.

During the second half of the 20th century, and especially after 1980, the future and alignment of the Swiss Army increasingly became an issue of political dispute. Whether proponent or opponent of the army, whether academic or "simple" recruit: every interested party can find documents on the history of "their" military in the Swiss Federal Archives.