Verein für Finanzgeschichte (Schweiz und Fürstentum Liechtenstein)

Association pour l'histoire de la finance (Suisse et Principauté du Liechtenstein)

Association for Financial History (Switzerland and Principality of Liechtenstein)

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'Contributions to Financial History' (available volumes)

Volume 1: Walther Hofer, Herbert R. Reginbogin: Hitler, der Westen und die Schweiz 1936-1945 (Hitler, the West and Switzerland, 15 p., available in German only)

In 2001, the renowned historian Walther Hofer (University of Berne) published his broad-ranged "Hitler, der Westen und die Schweiz". In the first part, he places Switzerland within her international political context and sets German aggressiveness in opposition to western passivity. In the second part, the American historian Herbert R. Reginbogin sheds a new light onto the economic and financial entanglement between western democracies - USA, Great Britain and Switzerland - and Nazi Germany. This volume of the 'Contributions to Financial History' contains an abstract of W. Hofer's much more detailed book.

Volume 2: Werner de Capitani: Banking confidentiality and Historical Research. Legal opinion (32 p., also available in German and French)

According to the current legal situation in Switzerland it does not seem that there is any legal possibility of allowing historians to see client files without the client's authorization. If recent events have made anything clear, it is that any lifting of banking confidentiality in the interests of historical research requires an explicit legal foundation.

Volume 3: Michel Fior: Le rôle de l 'Entre-deux-guerres dans le développement de la place financière suisse (The role of the Interwar period in the development of the Swiss financial center, 15 p., available in French only)

To what extent do the roots of Switzerland's development into an international financial center lie in the 1920s and 1930s? On the monetary level, the emergence of the Swiss National Bank as major force was reflected by the stabilization of the Swiss franc and the return to the gold standard after World War I. During this transitional process the strong franc became a highly sought-after safe-haven currency, not least because of a monetary policy centered on the interests of financial circles. Far from being neutral, this monetary policy consolidated the position of the Swiss 'big' banks as a refuge for circulating assets, and reinforced their emergence as capital exporters. The Swiss Confederation's intervention in financial matters, embodied in the Federal Banking Act (1934), strengthened the credibility and thus the international appeal of the Swiss financial system. The international context also played a role in the development of Swiss financial structures: while many countries were afflicted by political and fiscal instability, Switzerland maintained an image as a politically secure country, with a light and stable fiscal system. Neutrality helped to reinforce this image abroad. Finally, there were several changes in the structure of Swiss banking itself: a major process of concentration (three of the eight 'big' banks disappeared) and new risk management methods put investment in foreign countries on a new footing. The extension of investment activity into the USA in 1936 and the opening of the Swiss banks' first New York agencies ensured that Swiss financial institutions were integrated into the international financial system of the post-war era.

Volume 4: Jean-Christian Lambelet: Recherche historique et sciences sociales. Réflexions d'un économiste iconoclaste (Historical research and Social sciences. Reflections by an iconoclastic economist, 24 p., available in French only)

Is it possible today to carry out historical research without recourse to the analytical tools that have been developed in various social sciences, particularly in modern economics and political science? This article endeavors to show that it remains feasible in certain areas and for certain topics, but not for an increasing number of important issues. The series of events which led to World War II is used as an illustration. Thus, the various hypotheses which may explain the rise of the National Socialists and their seizure of power in Germany can only be tested rigorously by means of various statistical (econometric or politometric) methods. Similarly, the outbreak of the Great Depression in the 1930s, with all its political consequences, can only be understood with the help of modern economic analysis. Since the mastery of these tools demands appropriate training, historical researchers increasingly require such training. If they don't have it, research results will be academically substandard, as the bulk of the recent work by the Bergier Commission shows. It follows that today's aspiring historians need to undergo thorough training in the various social sciences or at least in one of them. This is perfectly possible in practical terms, and the only obstacles to doing so are psychological.

Volume 5: Beat Kappeler: Nach 50 Jahren: Die Renten für die Alten in einer neuen Welt (After 50 years: The pensions for old people in a new world, 24 p., available in German only)

Demographics, companies, the world of work, social policy and values have clearly all undergone dramatic change in the fifty years since compulsory old-age insurance was introduced in Switzerland. The change has been just as marked in the thirty years since the basic shape of pillar two pensions was established after the referendum of 1972. These systems are old, though there seems to be a widespread lack of awareness that this is the case. Most politicians think that they can get by with a bit of tinkering. They fail to recognize that these systems go hand in hand with a whole series of outmoded assumptions about life expectancy, lifestyles, career patterns, corporate processes, supra-national migration trends and markets. By highlighting some of the changes that have occurred, this article aims to cast a fresh light on the issue and move the debate about pension reform beyond the aimless bluster about contracting or expanding the current system.

Volume 6: Nikolaus Linder: Der Fall Malacrida. Ein Berner Bankenkrach und seine Folgen (The Malacrida Case. A Bernese Bank Crash and its Consequences, 27 p., available in German only)

In autumn 1720, ambitious plans for financing the state in France and Britain led to the collapse of Europe's securities markets. Among the victims of the crisis were two Bernese banks, Malacrida & Cie. and its correspondent bank in London, Samuel Müller & Cie. As a result of Malacrida's bankruptcy, the city of Bern came several times to the brink of a constitutional crisis. So many people were affected that the viability of political institutions was threatened. It also became apparent that a statutory liquidation of the bank would not be possible. It wasn't until 1722, when the banker David Gruner bought out Malacrida's assets and liabilities, that a semblance of calm returned. The argument with Samuel Müller and his London partners escalated into a legal dispute that was only settled in 1729.

The crisis resulted in various changes to Bernese law. It led directly to plans for a new commercial regime as a counter to proposals made in 1723 to abolish banks altogether.

The trauma unleashed by the crisis of 1720 had a lasting influence on the development of the financial sector in Bern, and it would be almost thirty years before another bank was founded. Consequently, Bern missed out on a good deal of Switzerland's economic progress during this time, with implications that were felt far into the 19th century.

Volume 7: Robert U. Vogler: Swiss Banking Secrecy: Origins, Significance, Myth (110 p., also available in German)

The rise of Switzerland as a financial center began about 100 years ago. Though it is not quite in the same rank as the real giants of the financial world, over the last 50 years Switzerland has progressed from a modest international standing to occupy a position of real significance. The major difficulties experienced by Swiss banks - mainly in the 1930s - certainly slowed the pace of progress, but only temporarily. This crisis resulted in new banking legislation, which also laid the legal foundations for banking secrecy.

People often cite banking secrecy as an indispensable key to the success of Switzerland's financial industry. But until 1935, Switzerland had no national banking law and thus no official banking secrecy. What the country did offer was a pronounced relationship of trust which had been built up between banks and clients over the course of the centuries, and which had become established as an unwritten code similar to the confidentiality offered by lawyers, doctors and priests. De facto banking secrecy had therefore existed for a long time, but it was not enshrined in legislation until relatively late on. Prior to the 1930s an avowedly liberal economic and political environment, and an equally pronounced understanding of the importance of private discretion had made such legislation superfluous.

Ever since the national law on banks and savings banks came into force, banking secrecy has been the subject of debate and an almost permanent target of attacks from within Switzerland as well as from other countries. This study attempts to provide an overview of the relevant processes and events, and the motivations of the different players involved, but also looks at the myths that have grown up around banking secrecy.

This publication is designed to appeal to a broader audience of interested non-specialists. Its primary aim is to draw out the main strands relating to banking secrecy and to communicate these in a comprehensible way to the general reader. It covers a period of about a century - from 1890 to 1990 - but lays no claim to absolute completeness. It deliberately leaves out the latest developments, because the author believes these are still too recent to judge properly; in some cases they are still running their course. This accords with the classic view of historical study, which dictates that no fair history can be written until at least a generation after the events concerned. The speed at which modern life is lived means that this period can be reduced a little.

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Verein für Finanzgeschichte
(Schweiz und Fürstentum Liechtenstein)
8000 Zürich
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