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The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland. The Swiss Eidgenossenschaft (originally, of Schwyz, after the most prominent founding member), as the confederacy was called, began as an alliance between the communities of the valleys in the central Alps to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains. In the late Middle Ages, this region belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, and because of its strategic importance the Hohenstaufen emperors had granted it reichsfrei status in the early 13th century. As reichsfrei regions, the cantons (or regions) of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were under the direct authority of the emperor without any intermediate liege lords and thus were largely autonomous.