Just 50 years ago, industry generated half of Switzerland’s national income. Since then, many factories have been closed, but the great industrial age continues to mark the Swiss landscape and way of life.
In Switzerland, land not suitable for agricultural purposes was used to practise trades and crafts, from which many industries emerged. Swiss industrialisation benefited from the country’s central position in Europe and from the absence of an aristocracy, which curbed private enterprise in other countries.
Until 1860, Switzerland was even self-sufficient, making use of the raw materials within its borders. The country was dotted with hundreds of mineral and metal mines, including iron, lead, zinc and gold. Timber, coal and hydropower ensured Switzerland’s energy needs were met.
The advent of the railroad brought an end to mining activities since imported raw materials cost less, but it also allowed Swiss industrial products to conquer foreign markets. Spared from the World Wars, Swiss industry became among the ten most important in the world in the 1960s.
These images are taken from the book "Industrial Switzerland, from the 18th to the 21st Century ", published in 2011 by Hans-Peter Bärtschi. (Images were made available by the author unless otherwise noted.)