Colonial Mercenaries: Swiss Military Labour and the Dutch East Indies,


In his dissertation, Philipp Krauer pursues the traces of around 5,800 Swiss mercenaries who served in the Dutch colonial army in Indonesia from the foundation of the Swiss federal state in 1848 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Occasionally, the Swiss provided up to 10 per cent of the European troop contingent and thus contributed to the violent Dutch expansion in the Malay Archipelago.

Based on sources from various archives in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Indonesia, this work examines the social backgrounds of the mercenaries: What motivated them to join the colonial army? What experiences did they gain within the colonial space and how did they interact with the local population and authorities? Second, this project sheds light on the money flows from Batavia (now Jakarta) to the colonial veterans and their families in Switzerland. Another aim of this work is to analyse the ideas, images and imaginations that circulated within this colonial space from the Malay Archipelago to the Alps.

The project thus attempts to contribute to the growing scholarship on the transnational, interconnected histories of Switzerland, the Netherlands and Indonesia. It aims to point out how colonialism was a common, often shared, European project, which not only influenced the colonies but also shaped the European hinterland across social strata far away from the metropolises.

Doctor Goudron – or how the tar hit the road: a global history of knowledge, infrastructure & environment, c. 1840—1945


On 13 March 1902, a stretch of road almost 40 metres long was tarred in Monaco under the instructions of the Swiss medical doctor Ernest Guglielminetti. This idea occurred to him when he remembered the sealing of hospitals in the Dutch East Indies, where he had served in the colonial army. Although Guglielminetti was not the first to experiment with tarring roads, his name is nevertheless associated with the breakthrough of this method—which earned him awards from 37 countries as well as the sobriquet Dr Goudron (Dr Tar). To promote his invention, he founded the ‘Ligue contre la poussière’ (League against Dust) and collaborated with sports associations and motorists.By following the biographical traces of Guglielminetti on a micro-global level, this project sets out to unfold the discourses on hygiene, infrastructure, rubber and ‘progress’ converging in this character as well as to investigate the impact of tarred roads on motorized mobility and environment.