The chapter emphasizes four areas, those being, first, collection and bankruptcy statistics; second, conviction statistics; third, prison statistics; and fourth, patent statistics. These areas were chosen primarily because of data availability rather than their actual weight within the legal system. For example, conviction or crime statistics certainly deserve a more detailed treatment, while collection and bankruptcy statistics, and also patent statistics – legal specialties – are probably overrepresented in the table section of this chapter.

Collection and Bankruptcy Statistics 1908–1988

The first reliable collection and bankruptcy statistics can be found in volume 1917 of the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland in the form of series reaching back to the year 1908. Since these series contain gaps until the early 1930s, the progression of national curves of default summons, seizures, liquidations, and bankruptcies in the 1910s and 1920s can only be determined through projections. In view of the fact that there is collection and bankruptcy data for most cantons beginning in 1909, we consider our estimates to be fairly accurate. A schematic presentation of the various components of the estimate series follows. The general procedure is identical with the one described in the commentary to the table section of chapter C. (“Marriage, Birth, and Death”)

Processing of Canton Series into National Estimate Series, by Time Period


For three of the four quantities estimated by us, we indicate the development in the cantons until 1988. We refrain from publishing a table of default summonses sorted by canton since knowledge of this value is not particularly useful (compare Julius Wyler: Die Schweizerische Betreibungs- und Konkursstatistik in the Journal for Swiss Statistics and Economy, vol. 1919, p. 31).

Convictions Statistics 1853–1986

There are no national convictions statistics for the 19th and the early 20th centuries. If a sufficient number of canton statistics could be secured, it might be possible to reconstruct, at least in part, the national level. The most likely places where the required tables could be found are reports by the government council and the supreme courts of individual cantons.
For the canton of Zurich, there are conviction statistics reaching far back into the 19th century: at the Research Institute for Swiss Social and Economic History of the University of Zurich (“Forschungsstelle für schweizerische Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Universität Zürich”), Erich Otto Graf – incorporating prior research by Emil Sträuli and Ervin Hacker, the reports by the government council, and the operational reports of the supreme court – compiled a set of long-term series that covers the entire period between 1853 and 1936. It must be noted, however, that these statistics are of a homogenous structure only after 1867; prior years contain data only on persons convicted by jury or district courts, but not by regional courts (“Kreisgericht”). Additional information on the crime incidence in the canton of Zurich in the 19th century is contained in the licentiate thesis (“Lizentiatsarbeit”) of Claude Weill at the Historical Institute of the University of Zurich. It offers a fascinating look at the world of felonies, trials, and court verdicts in the age of Pauperism. However, since all in all, the statistics presented in this study for the 1830s, 40s, and 50s are of rather specific nature, we did not include them into this publication. The first attempts at compiling conviction statistics at the national level with the help of canton conviction figures date back to 1906 and 1909–1911. Even though those attempts cannot be considered failures, another decade and a half passed until the first national set of crime statistics was unveiled to the public on the eve of the Great Depression. It is unclear why this publication, from the year 1929, was not followed by another until the year 1946. Fortunately, the major results of surveys commissioned by the Federal Statistical Office in the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s are reproduced in the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland. We used summaries found in the same source to depict their development in the ensuing two decades, since the official crime statistics journals published between 1946 and 1965 are out of print and unavailable. Beginning with 1966, we could avail ourselves of the series “Statistical Sources in Switzerland” (“Statistische Quellenwerke der Schweiz”), which contains a statistical series advancing to 1984 that was initially entitled “Swiss Crime Statistics” (“Schweizerische Kriminalstatistik”) and renamed in 1969 to “Criminal Convictions in Switzerland” (“Strafurteile in der Schweiz”).
There are conviction tables by canton already for the years 1906, 1909–1911, and 1929. We pass these on in unchanged form, but wish to emphasize that they do only conditionally lend themselves to interpretation until the year 1942. At the occasion of the issuance of the first official national conviction statistics, the Federal Statistical Office justifiably observed: “The absence of general crime figures for the cantons is not regrettable insofar as such relative numbers could easily be misinterpreted and the differences seen as indicative of the morality of the population of individual cantons whereas, in reality, the differences are often due to different definitions of criminal activities. Further, the differences between cantons in determining punishment are relevant as well” (Introduction to the Swiss Crime Statistics of 1929, p. 7). Statistics from individual cantons did not become completely comparable to each other until the criminal justice system in all cantons conformed to the rules stated in the Swiss penal code. Binding for canton courts, the codex, which among other contains the abolishment of the death penalty for non-military crimes, took effect in 1942 after it had been adopted four years earlier in a national public vote. In the following decades, it was subject to several partial revisions.
Apart from the main conviction statistics, we also present in the table section of this chapter the so-called “crime figures”. This legal term, presented in the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland for the years 1942–1973, refers to those convicted among the population subject to criminal prosecution, and is sorted by gender and type of crime. We processed those relative figures and converted them into multiple year averages. We dealt with three other statistics in an analogous manner, which report on new conviction abstracts listed in the central penal registers administered by the Swiss Central Police Bureau and by individual cantons; disputes handled by the Supreme Court; and the number of driver’s licenses revoked.

Prison Statistics 1890–1941

While homogeneously composed conviction statistics at the national level are available only beginning with 1942, the situation for prison statistics is the opposite. The number of annual prison admissions and discharges, and the year-end prison population, is documented at the canton level since 1890. It can, however, be assumed that a certain percentage of convicted and not convicted persons saw the inside of prisons in several cantons during the course of a year and thus was counted more than once in the grand total. Nevertheless, these numbers offer interesting insights into the development of the Swiss prison population during a long and turbulent period of time. The Swiss Statistical Yearbook’s reports on the number of prisoners by canton came to an abrupt halt when the Swiss Penal Code was introduced. Since the Swiss Crime Statistics do not offer any prisoner-related information, we find ourselves unable to provide an overview of this segment of the Swiss population beyond the year 1941.

Patent Statistics 1891–1977

The Federal Office for Intellectual Property (“Bundesamt für geistiges Eigentum” / “Office fédéral de la propriété intellectuelle”) was founded on November 15, 1888. Since its founding, the office has been publishing annual statistical summaries, which we were able to examine on location. Since 1917, the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland has been reporting on requested and issued patent applications; main and additional patents issued by the office; the registration of company names and trademarks into the national and international trademark register; and the submitted samples and models. In addition, issued patents are listed by the major countries of origin of their owners, with this information available even for earlier years. Between 1917 and 1952, the Statistical Yearbook also reports on the countries of origin of applicants, as well as on the respective types of goods and countries of origin of registered company names and trademarks. Peculiarly, such detailed tables cannot be found in the official publication of the Federal Office for Intellectual Property (since 1988 “Swiss Journal of Patents, Samples, and Trademarks”). The October 1988 special edition of this brochure, issued on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Federal Office for Intellectual Property, likewise does not contain any long-term series ordered by countries and classes of goods; thus, we had to limit ourselves to processing into informative summaries the data printed in the volumes 1901 and 1917–1952 of the Statistical Yearbook. On the other hand, we did not deem it necessary to integrate into the “Historical Statistics of Switzerland” the information published by the Federal Office for Intellectual Property on rejected and withdrawn patent applications; on renewed and expired patents; on the protection periods for samples and models; and on the duration of main patents. Similarly, we considered it acceptable not to extend the patent statistics past the year 1977. There are two reasons for this decision: first, with the founding of the European Patent Office in 1988, a new era began for patents; and second, with the exception of the missing subdivision into countries and branches, the development since 1977 can be easily followed through the figures published in the “Swiss Journal of Patents, Samples, and Trademarks”.

SOURCE: «Legal Affairs» in Ritzmann/Siegenthaler, Historical Statistics of Switzerland, Zürich: Chronos, 1996, 1013-1017

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The current chapter contains 20 table(s) between 1832 and 2005