Learning Across Boundaries (LABs)

Connected Histories of Global Empires: Switzerland as an Entrepot

May 2018

A Summer LAB led by Professors Naoko Shimazu and Mate Rigo

This LAB will illuminate the role of trade entrepots in the global history of empire through the case studies of Singapore and Switzerland. Singapore developed as a port city in the Straits Settlements as a significant entrepot in the maritime trading networks in Asia and beyond. Similarly, Switzerland developed as an important entrepot of international finance and commodity trading networks, connecting Switzerland to the rest of the world.

This project is designed as a joint undertaking with students on the University of Zurich’s Department of History, and will take place in Zurich. Students will first gain a background knowledge of how Singapore developed historically as an entrepot, in order to make a presentation to their Swiss counterparts when they arrive in Zurich. With some comparative knowledge in mind, students are expected to develop an understanding of Zurich and its role in Switzerland through trading networks developed for commodities such as coffee, chocolate, tobacco, sugar, as well as finance in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Whenever possible, the course will spend one half of each day in situ at museums and sites of historical interest pertaining to the particular commodity being studied on that day. The other half of the day will be spent in seminar and small-group sessions at the University of Zurich. On one evening (18 May) students will be invited to a special session of the UZH-ETH research colloquium in Global and Extra-European History (usually closed to BA students) to hear a research presentation on a cognate topic. Digital history approaches will be discussed critically throughout the course, as introduced by Professor Dusinberre and his team in the opening session.

DATES: 15 May 2018 –  20 May 2018 (tentative)

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Note that as a follow on, one CIPE internship in digital humanities will be available at Yale University’s Sterling library to continue work on this project after the trip to Zurich. The internship is 8 weeks in length and will take place in New Haven.  The intern will work both on creating a product for the LAB as well as working on another project at Yale.  The internship listing is posted on Symplicity and requires a separate application.  Deadline is Feb 26th.

CO-PAYS: More information on co-pays will be available soon. Please note that need and merit based financial assistance to mitigate these costs will be made available through a LAB financial assistance application process. We will work with every student to ensure that finances are not a burden if you wish to participate. If you have any questions in the meantime, please reach out to Annette Wu at annette.wu@yale-nus.edu.sg.


Application for this LAB is closed.



This LAB is suitable for students in Humanities and the Social Sciences, particularly those with an empirical and theoretical interest in the history of empire and colonialism. Students should come with some knowledge of History (preferably having taken at least one History course.)


Aims, Objectives and Learning Outcomes:

  • To develop a comparative historical perspective to understanding the global history of empire, through commercial and trading networks
  • To visit museums and sites of trade and commerce in Zurich – gain an understanding of the role of public history in Switzerland, and how it compares with Singapore
  • To foster exchange with undergraduate students specializing in Global History at the University of Zurich
  • To collaborate with the University of Zurich students, on the joint preparation and presentation of Switzerland as an entrepot as a finale of the week
  • To develop a basic understanding of Digital History as a historical approach