Morges is first mentioned in 1288 as Morgia. It was known by its German name Morsee though that name is no longer used.
There were several prehistoric settlements along what is now the Morges lakefront. The largest and best known, Grande-Cité, was occupied in the late Bronze Age. One of the wooden objects at Grande-Cité has been dendrochronologically dated to 1031 BC. Many of the stilts and building structures have been preserved in situ. A dugout of oak was discovered near the settlement and in 1877 half of it was recovered and placed in the Musée d'histoire et d'art in Geneva.
About a hundred meters (yards) further north is the village of Vers-l'Eglise. The first settlement here dates back to the Neolithic, based on a layer of ceramic objects that date from between 2900 BC and 2700 BC. It remained occupied through the Late Bronze Age.
North-east of Grande-Cité is the third lake settlement, Les Roseaux, which comes from the Early Bronze Age. It is a rich site for artifacts including numerous edge strips for bronze axes and cups made of fine ceramics (of the Roseaux type). The arrangement of the stilts show the organization of the huts, which were oriented at right angles to the modern shore. Dendrochronological investigations of the stilts have determined that many of the houses were built between 1776 and 1600 BC. On top of the older settlement, a smaller Late Bronze Age settlement, dendrochronologically dated to 1055 BC, has been discovered.
The Bronze Age settlements were abandoned and the region was sparsely inhabited until the Gallo-Roman era when a villa and farms were built.
In 1286, Louis of Savoy, founded a city in a pasture where a gallows has previously stood. A castle was built to protect the city. A town charter was granted in 1293. The new city grew at the expense of the county of Vufflens, the diocese of Lausanne and Romainmôtier Abbey, all of which lost property and rights to the new city. It quickly developed into an administrative and market center as well as a hub for transporting goods by land and sea.
During the Middle Ages, Morges was a seasonal residence of the court of Savoy and the seat of a bailiff. The city was ruled as a single fief, and the residents were taxed according to their frontage or the width of their property along the street. The city was laid out like many neighboring Zähringer towns. There were two 13–18 m (43–59 ft) wide longitudinal streets that could be used for markets and fairs. A third, parallel road was added due to the rapid expansion of Morges. A rectangular plaza was created for the weekly market. Due to the shape of the streets and the frontage tax, most of the plots are long and narrow. Most of the houses have courtyards for light and ventilation and some are also equipped with spiral staircases and arbors. The religious institutions and their related educational institutions and parish houses as well as a hospital and the college were in the northern half of the town near the church. Workshops developed in the southern half of the city, around the harbor and the marketplace. There were also the covered markets, the granary, the slaughterhouse and important inns in the southern half. The most significant of the inns was the Auberge de la Croix Blanche at Grande-Rue 70-72 which was given a late Gothic facade around 1550.
The castle in the south of the town square was built with a square floor plan and four round corner towers. It resembles the castle of Yverdon, which may have served as a model for Morges Castle. One of the round towers, larger than the others, served as the main tower. The raised courtyard was covered, during the Middle Ages, by casemates, which were first mentioned in 1340. On the lake side, outside the castle walls, there was a fortified kitchen. This kitchen, which was unique in Switzerland, was attached to the exterior of the castle walls. In 1363 the kitchen was rebuilt. Following the conquest of Vaud by Bern, the roof the kitchen became a platform for shooters. It was later converted into an observation deck.
The Syndics are first mentioned in Morges in 1375. The Town Hall was built around 1515-20 and is the oldest public building of its type in Vaud. The stair tower and monumental portal were built in 1682, while the facade was done in a late Gothic style. Prior to its construction, public meetings were held in the church, the hospital or in a hostel. Until the 16th century the town council consisted of two groups, the small Council with six or seven members, and a General Council (Conseil général). In 1514 the old councils were replaced with a twelve-member council and a twenty-four-member council. Both of these councils remained until the end of the Ancien Régime.
The municipality owned their own weights and measures, two community ovens, an infirmary (1340–1564) and a Hospital which was consecrated to St. Rochus (1518). The pillory was on the market place, the prison at the castle and the gallows were at Tolochenaz.
During the Middle Ages, the church belonged to the former parish church of Notre-Dame in Joules (now part of Echichens). The town chapel was first mentioned in 1306 without a patron saint and by 1490 it was consecrated to Notre-Dame. The chapel was on the Lausanne side of the ramparts and the unattached bell tower adjoined the city gate and served as part of the city defenses. In 1537 Tolochenaz and Morges formed a Reformed parish and the chapel was converted into a Reformed church. It was razed in 1769.
Outside the city walls, but near Morges, was the monastery of Colettaner, which was also known as the Franciscan abbey. It was founded in 1497-1500 and despite being close to Morges, was associated with Geneva. Swiss Confederation troops devastated it in 1530 and again in 1536. The ruins of the monastery were replaced with a cemetery.
Early Modern Morges
The city and castle were plundered in 1475 and again in 1530. After the conquest of Vaud in 1536 by Bern, Morges became the center of a bailiwick in 1539. The castle was in deplorable condition. The new owners had the upper half of the fortifications rebuilt in the 1540s to suit the needs of artillery. Since Morges had not surrendered quickly enough to Bern, the city gates were demolished. The gate houses remained until 1769 and 1803, when they were finally destroyed.
During the early modern era, Morges was very prosperous. A number of large civic and private buildings were built during this time. They include Bern's granary (1690–92) at the site of a formerly fortified private residence, the house at Grande-Rue 56 (which was built in 1560 and the arcaded courtyard was added in 1670) and the building at Grande-Rue 94 with its remarkable facade from 1682. A latin school (scola grammatical calis) was operating by the second half of the 15th century. In 1574 the Collège de Couvaloup, which was inspired by the academies of Geneva, Lausanne and Bern, opened in Morges. The new church was built in a French classicism style between 1769–76 and is one of the masterpieces of Reformed architecture in Switzerland. German language church services began in town starting in 1710.
Beginning in the late 18th century the areas outside the city walls were built up. A number of country estates (La Gottaz, La Prairie, La Gracieuse) and new suburbs developed along the arterial roads to Lausanne and Geneva. A small harbor is first mentioned in 1536 and shortly there after, regular boat service to Geneva began. In 1664 a simple pier was built out of poles, but it was too small to provide protection for the galleys that were on the lake. The Bernese government therefore decided to build a commercial and military port in Morges and not in Lausanne-Ouchy. The current port was built with two curved breakwaters between 1691–96 and in 1702 the customs house was finished. With the port, Morges became the starting point for several trade routes and became the site of a major transshipment point for goods such as salt, wine and grain.
During the early modern era, the local economy began to rely more on transportation and trade than on the production of goods. The shoemakers guild was very influential in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were replaced by tanners in the 18th and 19th centuries when they grew to be more important in the local economy. The largest socio-professional groups at the end of the Ancien Régime in 1798 were; (in order of importance) the rentiers or landlords, merchants, winemakers, farmers, shoemakers, tailors, carpenters and joiners.
Morges in the modern era
A train of the Bière-Apples-Morges line
Morges Castle around 1930
The first railway line of the Canton connected Yverdon to Morges in 1855. The new station for this line, on the western outskirts of the city, caused a surge of development outside the city walls. The first line was followed in 1856 by the Morges-Lausanne route and in 1858, the Morges-Geneva line. In 1895, the Morges-Bière-Apples line was finished, which opened up the hinterland.
Morges grew into a regional economic, political and cultural center during the ancien régime. With the cultural development, it became a center for patriots (including Jean-Jacques Cart, Henri Monod and Jules Nicholas Muret) and the Vaudois revolution. After the 1798 French invasion Morges was a district capital.
During the second half of the 19th century, the city enjoyed an upturn in business thanks to the steamship port and the temporary connection from port to the railway (1855–62). In the port, the shipyard was located near the shipping company Compagnie générale de navigation sur le lac Léman (1858–89). The castle, which became the cantonal armory in 1803, was expanded in 1836–39 with some utility buildings and damaged in an explosion in 1871. Starting in 1925, it housed the Vaud Military Museum.
A Catholic church was built in 1844 and a chapel for German language services opened in 1891. In 1922 the cantonal Farming and Wine Production school was founded in Marcelin, the building is now the Agrilogie Marcelin.
A number of companies dominated the economic life of the municipality in the 19th and 20th centuries: a gas factory (1867–1932), the transport company Friderici AG (1890), the biscuit factory Oulevay AG (1899–1992), the metal construction workshop Société industrielle de Lausanne (1907–79), the foundry Neeser AG (1947) and the pasta factory Gala (1988–2005). Between 1900 and 1940, the city extended further, with new villas and suburbs springing up. The first zoning plan of 1934 was followed by further plans in 1957 and 1970. Between 1961 and 1964 the highway was built, that divides the municipality into two parts. Since 2007, the municipality has been part of the agglomeration of Lausanne-Morges project. This project aims to create 30,000 jobs by 2020.
In September 2020, a man released from prison July and who had been under investigation for "previous jihadist activity," chose a victim at random in Morges and killed him "to avenge the prophet."