The Swiss Economic Laboratorium

Why and when did little Switzerland become a relatively large economic power in the twentieth century?

The basis goes back centuries to the fifteenth to the nineteenth century.  Trade in central Switzerland flourished after the opening of the Gotthard Pass in the thirteenth century. The Confederation, and its powerful cities, developed. Bern was the most powerful city-state north of the Alps in the 16th century.

In the 18th century, many regions had already reached a high economic and industrial development level.

There were numerous trading houses from Genf to Appenzell, from St. Gall to Neuchâtel, and many production sites for, amongst other things, textiles.

Swiss entrepreneurs and merchants could be found in all markets of the continent and the world, as far as China and America. Raw materials worldwide were imported, processed, refined and then sold in large quantities to Europe and overseas.

This book discusses the period in the nineteenth century, especially after the establishment of the new Confederation in 1848.

In the 1860s, Switzerland was the most visited country in Europe. The country was changing rapidly. The process was far-reaching and affected the industry, infrastructure, economy and society.

By 1875, the Swiss railway network was the most extensive in Europe, along the lines where the pioneers had started in the 1850s and 1860s. The Grand Hotels are the palaces of the Belle Epoque. The country of emigration became an immigration destination. The draught horse of the industrialisation of the 18th and 19th centuries became a post-industrial zone with high-quality industries and services.

The book (German language) reveals the sources and processes that triggered this development in the 19th century and is literature for anyone who wants to know how Switzerland became a booming industrial country.

Joseph Jung, Das Laboratorium des Fortschritts. Die Schweiz im 19. Jahrhundert, Zurich, 2019.