Jonas Plüss, PhD student in the Sinergia project, has presented a paper on this year’s Historiales workshop. The paper tells the story of an unassuming document: The Swiss certificate of origin. In a first step the paper demonstrates how the Swiss chambers of commerce became the responsible institutions for the emission of certificates of origin. During World War 1, when Swiss exports were heavily controlled by both the Entente and the Central Powers, the necessity of a proof of Swiss origin arose and the chambers of commerce, by means of their secretaries and the newly founded “Konferenz der Handelskammersekretäre” stepped up and were awarded the responsibility to issue certificates of origin through the federal government. In the second part, the paper aims to show the drastic consequences that this state mandate had on the chambers of commerce: on the one hand, it secured their funding on the long term and allowed for a massive increase in staff; on the other hand it put the chambers of commerce in an ambivalent position where they were on the one side obligated by their members to influence government policy in their favour and on the other side a recipient of a government mandate, which meant they had to moderate their positions towards the state.
→ Paper (in German)