Agrarian learning processes in Switzerland 1918–1939

Burkhard, Daniel (4 February 2014). Agrarian learning processes in Switzerland 1918–1939 (Unpublished). In: 12th History Symposium at 2014 AMS Annual Meeting: “Extreme Weather—Climate and the Built Environment: New perspectives, opportunities, and tools.”. Atlanta, GA / USA. 04.02.2014.

This paper examines the social impacts of weather extremes and the processes of social and communicative learning a society undertakes to find alternative ways to deal with the consequences of a crisis. In the beginning of the 20th Century hunger seemed to be expelled from Europe. Switzerland – like many other European countries – was involved in a global interdependent trade system, which provided necessary goods.

But at the end of World War I very cold and wet summers in 1916/17 (causing crop failure) and the difficulties in war-trade led to malnutrition and enormous price risings of general living-standards in Switzerland, which shocked the people and caused revolutionary uprisings in 1918. The experience of malnutrition during the last two years of war made clear that the traditional ways of food supply in Switzerland lacked crisis stability. Therefore various agents in the field of food production, distribution and consumption searched for alternative ways of food supply. In that sense politicians, industrialists, consumer-groups, left-wing communitarians and farmers developed several strategies for new ways in food production. Traditionally there were political conflicts in Switzerland between farmers and consumers regarding price policies, which led mainly to the conflict in 1918. Consumers accused famers of holding back food to control extortionate prices while the farmers pointed to the bad harvest causing the price rising. The collaboration of these groups in search for new forms of food-stability made social integration possible again.
In addition to other crisis-factors, weather extremes can have disastrous impacts and destroy a society’s self-confidence to its core. But even such crisis can lead to processes of substantial learning that allows a regeneration of confidence and show positive influence on political stabilization.

The paper focuses on the process of learning and the alternative methods of food production that were suggested by various agents working in the field during the Interwar period. To achieve that goal documents of the various associations are analyzed and newspapers have been taken into consideration. Through the method of discourse-analysis of food-production during the Interwar period, possible solutions that crossed the minds of the agents should be brought to light.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Economic, Social and Environmental History

UniBE Contributor:

Burkhard, Daniel


900 History




Daniel Burkhard

Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2014 08:56

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2014 08:56


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