BASEL Bâle (Fr); Basle (Eng); Basilia (Lat).
- Bishopric (see separate Basle ~ Bishopric entry)
- Imperial Free City;
- Northwestern Canton of the Swiss Confederation, now divided into two Half-Cantons.
The city stands at the point where the westward-flowing Rhine swings north, the greater part of the city (Gross-Basel) being on the left bank of the Rhine, but Klein-Basel, which was acquired by the city in 1392, is on what is normally the German side of the river.
Basle was Roman in origin (its name was derived from one of the titles for the Roman Emperor) and later became the seat of a Bishop. It was in Lothar’s Middle Kingdom in 843, in the Kingdom of the East Franks in 870, and in the Kingdom of Burgundy from 912 until it was seized by the Emperor Henry II in 1006. Over the period from 1356 to 1386 the city threw off the Bishop’s rule and in 1386 escaped from any danger of Habsburg rule when Duke Leopold III was defeated and killed. The territory belonging to what had become the Imperial Free City was enlarged in the 14th century with the purchase of lands to the south and southeast.
In the 1470s Basel allied itself with the Swiss Confederation, which was, like Basel, threatened by the ambitions of Charles the Rash, Duke of Burgundy. In 1501 the city and its dependent territories became the 11th member of the Swiss Confederation.
In the new Swiss Confederation of 1815 Basel gained a small part of the former Bishopric close to the city. Its government remained oligarchic and dominated by the city. In the 1830s the rural parts of the Canton to the south and southeast demanded a more liberal government; there was fighting in 1831 and 1832, and in the latter year the country district proclaimed itself a separate Canton.
The Swiss Confederation, which was itself in some turmoil because of widespread disputes between conservatives and liberals, intervened, and in 1833 divided the Canton into two Half-Cantons, Basel-Stadt and Baselland. In 1969 a proposal to reunite the Canton was rejected in a referendum by Basel-Stadt.