Coat of arms
The canton of Basel, shown within the northern part of the Helvetic
Republic, as at 1802; the canton of Fricktal (adjacent) joined the
Aargau later that year.
Peace of Westphalia
15 May 1648
Partition into half-cantons
16 August 1833
Basel was a canton of Switzerland that was in existence between 1501
and 1833, when it was split into the two half-cantons of Basel-City
4 Unrest and insurrection
6 Suggested re-unification
Main articles: History of
Basel and Bishopric of Basel
Bishopric of Basel
Bishopric of Basel in the 16th century
Before the Protestant Reformation,
Basel was ruled by prince-bishops
(see Bishop of Basel, whose memory is preserved in the crosier shown
Basel coat of arms, as above). In the later 15th century, in
the wake of the Council of
Basel (1431–49), the city of
in wealth and importance. The University of
Basel was established in
1459, and the city became an intellectual center of the German
Renaissance in the years leading up to the Reformation. Erasmus of
Rotterdam taught in Basel, and early printshops were set up by
Johannes Petri and Johann Froben. In 1495,
Basel was incorporated in
the Upper Rhenish Imperial Circle, the bishop sitting on the Bench of
the Ecclesiastical Princes.
As a direct consequence of the Swabian War, resolved by the 1499
Treaty of Basel,
Basel and the Imperial City of
the Swiss Confederation in 1501, as the confederacy's 11th and 12th
Appenzell following suit 12 years later to complete the
Dreizehn Orte that made up Switzerland until the French Revolutionary
The canton of
Basel seceded from the prince-bishopric, and the secular
rule of the bishops of
Basel from this time was limited to territories
west of Basel, more or less corresponding to the modern canton of
Jura. Even though the bishops of
Basel no longer held secular
authority over the city of Basel, they continued to reside in the city
until the Protestant Reformation.
In 1503, the new bishop
Christoph von Utenheim refused to give
new constitution whereupon, to show its power, the city began the
construction of a new city hall. The reformation was brought to
Johannes Oecolampadius cathedral preacher under von Utenheim
and co-editor of Erasmus' first edition of the Greek New Testament.
Von Utenheim resigned on 19 February 1527. He was succeeded by
Philippe von Gundelsheim, canon at
Basel Münster since 1510.
In 1529, the city became Protestant under Oecolampadius and the
bishop's seat was moved to Porrentruy. In 1530,
against the bishop, but were suppressed using forces from Solothurn.
Because of insolvency, the prince-bishopric grew increasingly
dependent on the city of Basel, with the city granting him a mortgage
Birseck Castle in 1542, 1544, and 1545. In 1547, the bishop
formally agreed to allow the city to choose its own religion,
recognizing that the city had already become Protestant.
Basel patriciate ("Daig") now played a pivotal role in city
affairs as they gradually established themselves as a de facto city
aristocracy. The Bernoulli family, which included important 17th- and
18th-century mathematicians such as Jakob Bernoulli, Johann Bernoulli
and Daniel Bernoulli, were from Basel. The 18th-century mathematician
Leonhard Euler was born in
Basel and studied under Johann Bernoulli.
Intended as a defence of
Huguenots then persecuted in France, Calvin's
Institutes, authored in Basel, was a 1536 exposition of Protestant
Christian doctrine which later became known as Calvinism.
Basel in 1642, engraved by Matthäus Merian, oriented with SW
at the top and NE at the bottom.
The first edition of Christianae religionis institutio (Institutes of
the Christian Religion – John Calvin's great exposition of Calvinist
doctrine) was published at
Basel in March 1536. In 1543, De humani
corporis fabrica, the first book on human anatomy, was published and
Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564).
Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia finally brought about Imperial
recognition of the independence of the Swiss cantons, removing the de
jure (but not de facto) overlordship of the
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire rejected
by the then–Prince-Bishopric nearly 150 years earlier.
Unrest and insurrection
Switzerland in the Napoleonic era
Switzerland in the Napoleonic era and Restoration
and Regeneration in Switzerland
In 1792, the Rauracian Republic, a revolutionary French client
republic, was created, lasting for a few months into the following
year before being partitioned between a restored canton of Basel,
later within the Helvetic Republic, and the First French Republic.
Basel was a unified canton, with citizens from both the
city and the municipalities of the countryside sitting in the
Kantonsparlament. The cantonal parliament was dominated by members
from the city, though its population was less than that of the
combined countryside. This had not previously been a source of
grievance, but in 1830 the Baselbieter, or citizens from the
countryside, grew increasingly distrustful of the city. At a meeting
Bubendorf on 18 October 1830, 25 Baselbieter wrote to the
"esteemed gentlemen and noblemen in Basel", demanding equal rights
between city and countryside and a representation in parliament in
proportion to their numbers.
When the city rejected this demand, resentment from the countryside
region grew still larger to the extent that the city feared an attack.
Liestal a few men of the countryside formed a new provincial
government protected by an army of 3,000. The government was however
short-lived as on 16 January 1831 a force from
Basel occupied Liestal,
driving out the new government. A number of villages, such as
Bubendorf remained loyal to
Basel, though coming under threat from the rebels. The unrest in the
countryside persisted into 1832 and both sides committed injustices
upon the other.
On 3 August 1833 over 1200 troops of the city armed with 14 cannons
marched on Liestal, but at the Battle of Hülftenschanz, which took
Pratteln and Frenkendorf, the city's troops were forced
Basel by the superior numbers of the rebels. Their route back
to the city was ambushed and the city forces took heavy losses.
A cantonal coat of arms combining the coats of arms of the two half
cantons, was in use from 1833 to 1999 when the "full canton" needed
representation, e.g. in the Standesscheiben shown in the glass dome of
the Federal Palace of Switzerland. The same combined coat of arms
would be used for the suggested re-united canton.
After this conflict, the highest Swiss authority, the Tagsatzung, was
petitioned on 17 August 1833 to separate the canton of Basel; nine
days later, the partition into half-cantons, modelled after the
Unterwalden and Appenzell, was effected.
From the country municipalities it allocated only Riehen, Bettingen
and Kleinhüningen — which would otherwise have been an exclave of
Basel-City and the
Grand Duchy of Baden
Grand Duchy of Baden — to
the new half-canton of Basel-City. The remaining municipalities formed
the new canton of Basel-Country.
Swiss Constitution of 1844 continued to recognize "Basel" as one
of twenty-two "sovereign cantons" of Switzerland, enumerated as Basel
(Stadt und Land). In this sense, as a sovereign member of the Swiss
Confederacy, the canton of
Basel continued to exist until 1999, when
the revised constitution recognised the two former half-cantons as
"cantons" for the first time.
Several attempts have been made to reunite
Basel-Country. In 1969, the citizens of
Basel-Country defeated the
motion in a referendum. The two cantons have since concluded a number
of co-operation agreements, such as joint financing and governance of
the University of Basel.
^ The term "half-canton" refers to the constitutional status of these
entities during 1848–1999. Since 1999, they are officially "cantons"
with "half-vote" in the Council of States (je eine halbe
Swiss Constitution of 1999, paragraph 142.4)
^ Habicht, Peter,
Basel - A Center at the Fringe (Basel: Christoph
Merian Verlag, 2006) pp. 43, 55, 70, 79.
^ Surchat, Pierre Louis, „Philipp von Gundelsheim“, in: Neue
Deutsche Biographie 20 (2001), S. 373 f. [Onlinefassung]; URL:
^ Geoffrey Rudolph Elton, Harold Fullard, Henry Clifford Darby,
Charles Loch Mowat, The New Cambridge Modern History, 1990, p. 113
^ The Illustrations from the Works of
Andreas Vesalius of Brussels,
Courier Dover Publications 1973, p.30
Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
about Canton of Basel.
Basel in German, French and Italian in the online Historical
Dictionary of Switzerland.
Coordinates: 47°33′N 7°34′E / 47.550°N 7.567°E /