The history of Switzerland can be traced back to Aug. 1291 when the Uri, Schwyz and Unterwaiden entered into a defensive league. In 1353 the league included eight members and in 1515, 13. In 1648 the league became formally independent of the Holy Roman Empire. No addition was made to the number of cantons until 1798 when, under the influence of France, the unified Helvetic Republic was formed. This failed to satisfy the Swiss and in 1803 Napoleon granted a new constitution and increased the number of cantons to 19. In 1815 the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland and the inviolability of her territory were guaranteed by Austria, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Prussia, Spain and Sweden. This Federal Pact, which included three new cantons, was accepted by the Congress of Vienna. In 1848 a new constitution was approved following a series of run-ins between Protestant and Catholic cantons. The 22 cantons were linked by a federal government (consisting of a bicameral parliament that elected a seven-member governing council) and a federal tribunal to rule on intra-cantonal disputes. This constitution was revised in May 1874 to allow for national and local referenda on a range of political issues. Female franchise dates only from Feb. 1971. In a national referendum held in Sept. 1978, 69·9% voted in favour of the establishment of a new canton, Jura, which was established on 1 Jan. 1979.
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