Świdnica was first called a town (civitas) in a document dated 1267. There is no known document of incorporation, but it is thought that one was issued around 1250. At this time, Świdnica belonged to the Wrocław Principality.
In 1290 Prince Bolko I Surowy raised the rank of the town, making it the capital of his principality. He became the progenitor of the Świdnica Piast dynasty. By the early 14th century the town had fortifications with six gates, a parish church and two monasteries. At that time, Świdnica became known for producing excellent beer, cloth and knives.
In 1326-1368, during the reign of Bolek II Mały, the Świdnica-Jawor Principality extended from Dzierżoniów and Niemcza all the way to Łużyce.
In 1392 the principality was annexed by the Czechs. The period of Świdnica Piast rule had contributed to the town’s dynamic development. By the end of the 14th century, its population numbered about 6,000.
The change in national affiliation had no influence on the town’s economy. Trade and crafts continued to flourish. Toward the end of the 15th century, Silesia was ruled for a short period by the Hungarian King Mátyás Corvinus. Large cattle and hop markets, widely known also outside Silesia, took place in Świdnica.
In 1526, all of Silesia came under Habsburg rule. Świdnica underwent major social changes then, as during the Reformation most of its inhabitants converted to Protestantism. During the 30-Year War (1618-1648), Silesia was almost completely depopulated, and sieges, fires and marches of troops completely devastated Świdnica. The war’s destruction caused the town’s economy to collapse.
In 1740 Silesia was incorporated into the Prussian state. King Frederick II shortly decided to build a fortress at Świdnica.
The town’s economy livened up again toward the end of the 18th century with the building of the first manufactories. Many small industrial enterprises were created in the second half of the 19th century. A rail line from Jaworzyny Śląskie reached the town in 1844, and later (1855) was extended to Dzierżoniów and Wrocław (1898). Communal services were created: a gas works (1863), a new water tower (1876) and an electric power station (1907). The population growth from around 15,000 in 1852 to over 28,000 in 1900 was an indicator of development.
In 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, a Polish government operational group arrived in Świdnica to take over and create an inventory of previously German property and to organize the Polish administration. The German population was expelled, and in its place came Polish settlers, mostly from Małopolska and the Eastern Borderlands[1.1].
- [1.1] Based on www.um.swidnica.pl (History of Świdnica), as of 20.8.2008.