Navigation auf

Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Fast Money and Enduring Rrelationships: Swiss Business in Colonial Singapore and Sumatra, 1860–1930

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. Andreas Zangger (doctoral thesis 2010)
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: March 2006 – February 2009
Tutor: Prof. Dr. Jakob Tanner
Research field: Entangled Histories


"The elephant steamer" - one of the most common stamps in the commerce with European textiles in Southeast Asia
The dissertation focuses on Swiss people doing business in Southeast Asia from 1860 until 1930, confined to trade, plantation business and applied science. I am interested in how Swiss migrants participated in the colonial world of Southeast Asia and what role their nationality played in that process: as white Europeans, people from Switzerland were part of the colonial system and were involved in the setting of its rules; as non-colonial Swiss they tried to establish networks at the interfaces of the British and the Dutch empire; and as individuals they pursued careers that were oriented towards their country of origin. They operated between the poles of individual chances of social mobility, participation in the colonial system and the establishing of Swiss para-statal networks. Numerous Swiss worked in the transnational economic area between Singapore, Penang and the East Coast of Sumatra, where they could meet the requirements of their conflicting roles more easily than in areas of national interest like Java and India.

The dissertation is arranged in three parts. The first part looks at Swiss/German trading houses in Singapore, their connections to European manufacturers and their relationship to Asian clients. A special focus is given to the role of trademarks in textile trade. The second part looks at the participation of Swiss in the plantation belt of Sumatra. A focus is given to national interests in commodity markets (tobacco, coffee, rubber and gambier) and the niches Swiss plantation managers could establish. The third part takes four topics to look at entangled histories between Switzerland and Southeast Asia: a) marine insurances, b) investments in plantations, c) expat organisations and migratory concepts and d) applied botany.

Link zur Forschungsdatenbank der Universität Zürich