History of Geneva
First noted as a Roman settlement in 58 B.C., Geneva quickly grew into an important trading town in the heart Europe during the Middle Ages. Due to its strategic locale, the city was a major target of conquest and changed hands several times before eventually establishing itself as an independent republic in 1535. Final independence was gained in 1602 when the people of Geneva repelled an attempted invasion by the Duke of Savoy.
Following the repeal of the Edict of Nantes in the mid-1600’s, Geneva became a major refuge for persecuted Protestants from throughout the continent. Attracted by the teachings of John Calvin, John Knox and Theodore de Beze, Geneva’s refugee population exploded, garnering Geneva the title “Protestant Rome.” This period also brought the first waves of watchmakers, jewelers, and other artisans who would soon make Geneva famous the world over its craftsmanship.
Throughout the following centuries, Geneva attracted many rich aristocrats who established grand estates around the city. Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other philosophers and artists soon followed, further adding to the refinement of the city
On September 12, 1814 Geneva joined the Confederation of Switzerland and quickly grew as a banking hub and a leader of the industrial revolution in Europe.
Toward the end of the century, in 1864, Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross laying the groundwork for the modern conception of the city as an international hub and champion of human rights. The first convening of the League of Nations took place in 1920, followed by the opening of the European Headquarters of the United Nations in 1946.
Geneva today is a product of the best of its history, drawing on its many cultural influences and providing a refuge of peace that serves as a model for the rest of the world.
TIP: Visit the Maison Tavel Museum for a dive into the history of Geneva City and watch the beautiful multimedia short document about Geneva's history.