Present-day Geneva has been the site of a township ever since the Palaeolithic
period. Celtic peoples fortified the settlement in 500 BC. With the conquest
of the Allobroges' homelands by Rome in 120 BC, Geneva became a Roman stronghold.
Shortly before 400 AD, Geneva was awarded the status of a bishopric, becoming
the seat of the Germanic Burgundian kingdom in 443 AD, until the Franks occupied
the territory in 534. Throughout the middle ages, it changed hands constantly,
until it gained independence through economic power in the first half of the
The city’s political, economic and religious life was influenced largely by Jean Calvin’s particular version of the Reformation. During the Enlightenment in the 18th century, Rousseau and Voltaire contributed to Geneva’s intellectual prosperity, and to a humanistic culture that eventually led Henry Dunant to found the Red Cross movement. Always an independent city, Geneva did not join the Swiss Confederation until 1815, nearly 500 years after Bern and Zurich. Geneva was firmly established as an important international city when it became home in 1919 of the League of Nations.
Geneva’s population today is 175,000. The main economy includes the manufacture of precision instruments and watchmaking. It boasts a thriving chemical industry and the headquarters of various international organizations and companies.
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