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The city of Basel is in northern Switzerland on the banks of the Rhine River at the mouths of the Birs and Wiese Rivers where the French, German, and Swiss borders meet.

In 1349, the black plague wiped out approximately half of the city, and in 1356, one of the largest earthquakes in central Europe up until that time hit. Basel was, for all intents and purposes, was entirely destroyed. The quake damaged both France and Germany as well. The guilds insisted that the Jews were responsible for the plague, and they set about trying to get confessions from various Jews. Several were tortured and confessed, and the guilds used these coerced confessions as proof of their claim. They demanded that all Jews be executed, and the Council did so. All of the Jewish residents, except for the few who escape and a few youngsters were shackled. More than 600 Basel Jews were then locked inside a wooden barn on a Rhine island, and the barn was set on fire. The young orphans were converted to Christianity.

The first university in Switzerland was founded in Basel by Pope Pius II in 1460. The Pope had been to the city for the Ecumenical Council of 1431-49.

In 1501, Basel joined the Swiss Confederation and formed their local government shortly thereafter.

Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus taught at the university from 1510 to 1529, influencing the city to become a center of the Protestant Reformation. The Counter-Reformation brought skilled workers as refugees from Italy and France. About this time, silk was one of the major products made in Basel. By the end of the 17th century, the political power was vested in trade guilds.

In 1529, the bishop was forced to exit the city, and he was replaced by the city guilds.

The city is divided by the Rhine and connected by six bridges. Today, the part of the city on the northern bank of the Rhine is the industrial sector and the Rhine Port while the oldest part of Basel sits on the southern bank. Basel is an important hub for foreign trade, which comprises a third of all of the Swiss Customs' revenue. While Basel is home to banks and machine manufacturers, it is more than anything the center of chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Roman Catholics and Protestants are virtually evenly represented in Basel, and the most prevalent language spoken is German, or more exactly, the Basel German dialect, as opposed to standard German.



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