Flag of the canton
The canton stretches from Lake Neuchâtel in the North, where it borders the cantons of Neuchâtel and Fribourg, to Lake Geneva in the South, bordering Haute-Savoie (France) and the canton of Geneva. On the Jura ranges in the west the canton borders the French départements of Ain, Jura, and Doubs and the canton of Neuchâtel. In the west, the Vaudois part of the Swiss Alps joins the cantons of Fribourg, Bern, and Valais. The total area is 3,212 km².
There is a small enclave surrounded by lands of the canton of Fribourg containing Avenches. On the other hand, there are two enclaves of the canton of Fribourg that are surrounded by the canton of Vaud.
The areas in the southeast are mountainous. The Diablerets with 3,210m are part of these mountains. There are significant glaciers in these mountains, home to some well-known ski resorts. The cntral area of the canton, in contrast, constitutes of moraines and is thus hilly. There are plains along the lakes.
Location of the canton
Along the lakes, Vaud was inhabited in prehistoric times. Later on, the Celtic tribe of the Helvetii inhabited the area. The tribe was defeated by Caesar’s troops in 58 BC and as a consequence the Romans settled the area. The towns of Vevey (Viviscus) and Lausanne (Lausonium or Lausonna) are two of the many towns established by the Romans.
In 27 BCthe state of Civitas Helvetiorum was established around the capital of Avenches (Aventicum). There are still many Roman remains around the town today. Between the 2nd and the 4th century the area was repeatedly invaded by Alamannic tribes, and in the 5th century the Burgundians occupied the area. The Merovingian Franks later replaced the Burgundians. Their occupancy did not last long either, and in 888 the area of the canton of Vaud was made part of the Carolingia Empire. In 1032 the Zähringens of Germany defeated the Burgundians. The Zöhringens themselves were succeeded in 1218 by the counts of Savoy. It was only under the counts of Savoy that the area was given political unity, establishing what is today known as the canton of Vaud.
As the power of the Savoys declined at the beginning of the 15th century the land was occupied by troops from Bern. By 1536 the area was completely annexed. The rulers from Bern imposed the Reformation by force. The Bernese occupants were not popular amongst the population and the French Revolutionary troops were received with enthusiasm in 1798. The French troops were victorious and a Lemanic Republic was declared. This was soon turned into the canton of Léman, which in 1803 joined the Swiss confederation.
The current constitution dates from 1831, but was substantially revised in 1845, 1861 and 1885. In the 19th century the canton of Vaud was an outspoken opponent of the Catholic separatist movement (Sonderbund)
The major population centres of the canton are: Lausanne (approx. 275,000 inhabitants in 2000), Montreux-Vevey (70,000 inhabitants) and Yverdon-les-Bains. The region around Nyon is often considered part of the agglomeration of Geneva. All of these are on Lake Geneva, except for Yverdon, which is on Lake Neuchâtel.
The capital Lausanne is the only major city in the canton. There are light industries concentrated around the capital, but the canton as a whole is not industrial. Some towns specialize in watch making, chocolates or cigars. In contrast, the canton is the largest producer of wine in Switzerland. Most of the wine produced in the canton is white wine, and most vineyards are located on the steep shores of Lake Geneva.
There is agriculture in the areas away from Lake Geneva. Sugar beet is important around Orbe, tobacco in the La Broye Valley and fruits are grown on the foot of the Jura mountains.
Cattle breeding and pasture are common in the Alps, but also found towards the Jura Mountains. In the Jura region, there is a salt mine at Bex. Tourism is important in many towns along the Lake Geneva. Major lakeside resorts include Lausanne, Montreux or Vevey.