Thomas Zaugg

Historian, PhD, postdoctoral researcher

Some of my recent research topics, summed up in pictures: Piazza San Marco in Venice in 1963, the Vie catholique section at the 1935 World’s Fair in Brussels, exposition of Swiss cultural policy in 1943 and Italian workers in a factory in Switzerland in 1984.


Content from Vimeo can't be displayed due to your current cookie settings. To show this content, please click "Consent & Show" to confirm that necessary data will be transferred to Vimeo to enable this service. Further information can be found in our Privacy Policy. Changed your mind? You can revoke your consent at any time via your cookie settings.

Consent & Show

The American Business Dream

Since 1924, elites from industry, trade and commerce, representatives of the art and museum business and many other professions have been discussing virtually everything at the Rotary Club Zurich. The minutes of their luncheons contain insightful information about the club members as well as great deal of politics: social utopias from the 1920s, middle-class recipes against the crisis of the 1930s, travel reports from the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In 1958, the Catholic women’s rights activist Gertrud Heinzelmann gave one of the rare lectures by women on the occasion of the Swiss Exhibition for Women’s Work (SAFFA).

Above all, the Zurich Rotarians were longing for America. It was the land of opportunity, but they were not afraid to question it. This is the focus of my article, available here with excerpts from sources and in an audio version, read by Martin Butzke.

The anthology by Georg Kohler and Niklaus Peter can be ordered from Rüffer & Rub, with further contributions by Claudia Franziska Brühwiler (on the United States at the time Rotary was founded at the turn of the century) and Carl-Hans Hauptmeyer (on German Rotarians during the Nazi regime).

Spaces of Memory

The publication series “Spaces of Memory” aims to provide an innovative platform for trans-disciplinary research in the field of memory studies. It focuses on the construction and mediation of narratives, discourses and images of memory in the public sphere, in literature, art, the media, educational institutions, both in present and past societies. My contribution is dedicated to the appropriation of modern church architecture and economic corporatism from young Catholics’ perspective in the interwar years and after 1945. The anthology edited by Prof. Dr. Franziska Metzger and Prof. em. Dr. Dimiter Daphinoff will be published by Böhlau in 2024.

Swiss cultural policy at the Othmar Schoeck Festival

Why is the funding of culture in the canton of Schwyz being criticized? And why did Swiss cultural policy begin in the 1930s? At the Othmar Schoeck Festival 2023, we discussed cultural policy topics from the day before yesterday to the day after tomorrow – a lively discussion with the initiator Bruno Steiner, Katrin Rieder, Markus Brülisauer, the moderator Karin Landolt and the host Alvaro Schoeck. The whole talk is now available at

KADOC Fellowship 2024

I am very grateful to have been awarded the KADOC Fellowship 2024 for Religion, Culture and Society. KADOC is the Interfaculty Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society at KU Leuven. Established in 1976, KADOC is not only one of the leading cultural heritage institutions in Belgium, but also an international centre for the study of the interaction between religion, culture and society in the 19th and 20th centuries. The stay in Leuven will give me the opportunity to conduct research in the KADOC archives.

New entry in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland

The HLS has revised many of its articles on members of the Swiss government. These include my article on Philipp Etter, in which an audio recording is included for publication for the first time. See also the contributions from Memoriav.

Recent books

The first Swiss foreign minister

In the early decades, modern Switzerland had no foreign policy. It was widely believed that its strengths lay in domestic policy and not in external appearances. Numa Droz (1844–1899) from Neuchâtel was the first Federal Councillor to recognize the need for a Swiss foreign policy. Elected in 1875 at the age of 31 as the youngest Federal Councillor in history, Droz became head of the Political Department in 1887. Urs Kramer wrote this book until shortly before his death. I revised it and added an introduction. Foreword by Prof. Dr. Tobias Straumann.

Biography of a long-time politician

During his 25-year term of office from 1934 to 1959, Philipp Etter (1891–1977) initiated the Pro Helvetia cultural foundation, advocated Romansh as the fourth national language, supported the expansion of the ETH and laid important foundations for the introduction of the AHV and IV social security schemes.

However, the controversial image of an authoritarian, Catholic conservative statesman in the 1930s and during World War II remained influential both in the public eye and in research.

The verdicts on Etter have ranged from “pseudo-Mussolini” to “unacknowledged anti-Semite” and “patriotic non-Swiss”. Philipp Etter’s private estate has brought previously unknown aspects of this personality to light.