(Source : Swiss Historical Dictionary - 15 Oct 2007 - see link at the bottom)

Migration (emigration, immigration, interior migrations) are an integral part of the demographic, economic and political history of Switzerland. There is no generation, as far as precise sources can reconstruct the past, which has not provided an important contribution. The sources make plausible the hypothesis of an excess migratory balance from the second half of the 16th to the end of the 19th century. in the territories that today make up Switzerland. Previous periods, however, remain poorly known.

As early as the mid-sixteenth century, emigration movements dominated: the fear of demographic overload favored the establishment of institutional measures hindering immigration, a policy that the cantons will pursue until the creation of the federal state. The trend is reversed only in the years 1888-1900, immigration now supplanting emigration because of the labor needs of the then booming Swiss economy.

Swiss historiography has very differently favored the different types of emigration according to criteria reflecting the interests of the ruling class, national or regional concerns. This specificity explains the emphasis placed on the foreign service (the foreign service includes mercenaries, where mercenaries are supplied to a prince by a warlord acting on his own behalf, and the capitulated service, settled by agreements or capitulations passed between states) and pre-nineteenth-century settlement migration, followed by large-scale, sub-Atlantic and intracontinental migration, which often required political intervention.

It is only recently that studies on other forms of emigration have multiplied.

The latter, numerically less numerous, often individual, have, however, played a considerable role in Switzerland's economic development: thus market migration, with its impact on the search for outlets for the products of the Swiss economy; the migration of talents, especially men (the Ticino architects, for example) and, to a lesser extent, women; the migration of the training which allowed the acquisition of skills that Switzerland did not have (Itinerants workers). By itinerant workers, we mean people who move to work independently of the seasons (different from the seasonal work of agriculture or construction), which concerns everyday trades, carried out at different levels, or forms of work and temporary work of young people. These trades were formerly mostly craft, some trade and, from the nineteenth century, the manufacturing industry.

Finally, over the past 30 years, monographs based on places of departure and geographical destinations have multiplied. For the Middle Ages, the documentation on emigration from Switzerland is above all qualitative and makes it possible to further identify the major emigration currents of the elites than those of the populace (Crusades, Pilgrimages).

From the sixteenth century, on the other hand, the flows and causes of certain migrations are better apprehended. Overall, research on migration flows is still to be done.

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