Local economic elites. The Basel, Geneva and Zurich Chambers of Commerce, 1880-2010

While Chambers of Commerce (CoC) have been the most comprehensive gathering point for commercial and industrial elites in the cities of Geneva (since 1865), Zurich (1873) and Basel (1876) since the late 19th C., their history has remained little studied. This paper aims at providing a better understanding of their roles and functions for local business elites. We aim to collect systematic data on the CoC executive committees as well as their key salaried personnel at seven benchmark dates (1890, 1910, 1937, 1957, 1980, 2000 and 2020). The paper will contribute in three ways to knowledge on the long-term history of CoCs. First, we will provide basic information on their structure and composition. Second, our prosopography will enable us to assess how key social characteristics of core CoC individuals have evolved, for example how patrician families have reacted to the emergence of “newcomers”, such as women or foreigners. Third, we will investigate how these local elites were active at national and international levels. The comparison of these three trajectories will also enable us to pinpoint differences and commonalities between the way CoCs did function in the cities under scrutiny as well as the specificities of their relationship with the political and cultural spheres.

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