Settled since Neolithic times, Geneva became an imperial city in 1032, achieving independence in 1530 and joining the Swiss Confederation in 1814. Its reputation for religious tolerance during the Reformation proved to be a major influence on its subsequent development - for centuries, exiles from religious or political persecution chose the city as their refuge. John Calvin, the Protestant theologian, made his home here in the 1530s, from where he led the Reformation in Switzerland.
This spirit of acceptance has lived on, and Switzerland's much-vaunted neutrality means many international organisations have chosen to locate their headquarters in Geneva. There are currently around 200, raising the foreign community to 45% of the population. The League of Nations, predecessor of the United Nations, was established here in 1919. Although the UN moved to New York in 1945, Geneva has kept its European office here.