7. June 2015 – 40 years of DDS – 20 years of Dodis

2015 truly is the «ultimate year of jubilees»: In April, the research group of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland celebrated the 20th anniversary of the data base Dodis and, on June 7, the research project of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland turned 40!

On June 7 1975, the constitutive meeting of the «National Commission for the Publication of Diplomatic Documents», founded by the Swiss Society for History, took place at the station buffet in Berne (dodis.ch/40828). Professor Jacques Freymond from Geneva was elected as the first president of the commission; Antoine Fleury was named the secretary. The emergence of the research group can be seen in context of the rising interest in contemporary history at the beginning of the 1970s. Further essential achievements of the dedication to research in contemporary history are the founding of the Archives of Contemporary History in Zurich (1973) and the petition of historians issued in January 1972 concerning the release of federal records until 1945, which resulted in the decrease of the retention period of archival records to 35 years (dodis.ch/39940 and dodis.ch/40616).

Preparatory works for the large-scale research project were mostly conducted by Antoine Fleury and Georg Kreis at the beginning of the 1970s (dodis.ch/37041). Already in autumn of 1972, the Swiss Society for History organized a meeting of all interested institutions to discuss the way forward (dodis.ch/37044). At this meeting, representatives of the administration were present, and while they subsequently also took part at the meetings of the commission, they largely remained skeptical towards the project: «I fear this whole thing will lead to nothing!», a worried diplomat wrote on February 16, 1974 to Rudolf Bindschedler, the legal adviser of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (dodis.ch/P1396). The fears, however, were obviously unfounded and the research project has been running successfully ever since.

During the 40 years since its founding, the research project of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland with its data base Dodis has become one of the leading competence centers of the science of history in Switzerland and has, due to pioneer work in different areas, already been called the «flagship of digital humanities».

A compilation of documents concerned with the history of the DDS is available here: dodis.ch/T1341.