Page last updated
17 June 2022

Nicolas Chachereau

Welcome! I am a historian, working on social and economic history and the history of technology.

I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the History Department, University of Lausanne and at the Laboratory for the History of Science and Technology, EPFL.

You can download my curriculum vitae, read more about my research, consult my list of publications and learn about the data and digital tools I have made available.


I have researched and published about the early history of the Swiss patent system, looking at how this specific legal institution fitted into the wider arrangement of that country’s political economy. I have published several articles on the subject and I am currently in the process of publishing a book based on my doctoral dissertation (summary in French).

I am currently engaged in two research projects combining history of technology and economic and social history.

One of these research project is concerned with the history of fossil energy, and more specifically with the rise of oil consumption in Western Europe after 1945. It endeavours to move beyond the factors of price and convenience in explaining the meteoric surge of that energy source. To do so, I focus on the specific case of the building of oil infrastructure in Switzerland - crude oil pipelines and refineries. By considering the actors involved at multiple scales (local, regional, national, international) and the debates the projects sparked, this research aims at illustrating how the flow of oil did not simply result from natural abundance and characteristics, but was also profoundly shaped by economic, political, and environmental factors.

I am also involved in a research project that seeks to examine past (ir)responsible innovation, i.e. the way past innovators displayed concern or indifference for the adverse consequences of their activity, such as pollution, health hazards or accidents. To do so, the project combines the historical investigation of debates over specific technologies, and the digital analysis of a massive corpus of digitized American and Swiss patents. Read more about our research project “Tracing irresponsible innovation through patents”.

Data and Tools

As a “digital historian”, I am interested in the opportunities and pitfalls of digital methods for historical research and sometimes build tools to help the historian’s work.

The “Digital index of the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce” makes it easier to work with that unwieldy, but extremely useful, digitized source by allowing to jump directly to a relevant page.

Furthermore, as a heavy user of the open-source bibliography software Zotero, I try to contribute back in various ways. I was in charge of programming the citation styles as well as the “Lausanne Citation Style”, made for history students at the University of Lausanne. I am also a part of the team of the blog Zotero francophone, that brings news and tutorials to French-speaking users of Zotero.

Finally, as part of my research on the early Swiss patent system, I have built a database with information about all Swiss patents granted before 1914. I am planning to make that database available online later this year.



[forthcoming] Nicolas Chachereau, Les débuts du système suisse des brevets d’invention (1873−1914), Neuchâtel, Éditions Alphil, 2022. Publisher’s page.

Articles and book chapters

Nicolas Chachereau, «“Corriger ce que le système des brevets peut avoir de trop restrictif”: les premiers brevets d’invention suisses (1888-1907)», Artefact. Techniques, histoire et sciences humaines, 2022, no 16, p. 245‑268. Available online.

Nicolas Chachereau, «Introduction», in: Vlad Atanasiu, Nicolas Chachereau, Enrico Natale, Christiane Sibille (ed.), Framing Communication Infrastructures (1950-2020). Discours et imaginaires − Diskurse und Vorstellungen, Zurich, Chronos, 2022 (Geschichte und Informatik / Histoire et Informatique 22), p. 7‑22. Presentation of the volume and link to PDF.

translated into German with Christiane Sibille: Nicolas Chachereau and Christiane Sibille, «Einleitung», in: Vlad Atanasiu, Nicolas Chachereau, Enrico Natale, Christiane Sibille (ed.), Framing Communication Infrastructures (1950-2020). Discours et imaginaires − Diskurse und Vorstellungen, Zurich, Chronos, 2022 (Geschichte und Informatik / Histoire et Informatique 22), p. 23‑29. Presentation of the volume and link to PDF.

Nicolas Chachereau and Gabriel Galvez-Behar, «Le système international des brevets et la Première Guerre mondiale», Encyclopédie pour une histoire nouvelle de l’Europe, 26.3.2020. Online:

Nicolas Chachereau, «Des brevets sans aucune garantie. Les difficultés de l’exploitation des inventions en Suisse (1888-1914)», in: Aline Jeandrevin (dir.), Un rêve d’architecte. La brique de verre Falconnier, Bern, Till Schaap Edition, 2018, p. 22‑23. Publisher's presentation of the book.

Nicolas Chachereau, «How to patent a chemical? The instability of a new type of intellectual property (Switzerland, 1888–1907)», Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property, 2015, vol. 5, no 3, p. 285‑301. Available online: DOI: 10.4337/qmjip.2015.03.03.

Nicolas Chachereau, «Pourquoi se priver de copier? L’introduction d’un système suisse de brevets d’invention et de protection des dessins et des modèles, 1876–1888», in: Thomas David, Tobias Straumann et Simon Teuscher (ed.), Nouvelles contributions à l’histoire économique, Zürich, Chronos, 2015 (Annuaire suisse d’histoire économique et sociale 30), p. 91‑108. Available online: DOI: 10.5169/seals-632458.

Nicolas Chachereau, «Un support de l’information technique. Le système suisse des brevets d’invention (1888-1914)», Traverse. Zeitschrift für Geschichte, 2015, no 1, p. 134‑146. Available online: DOI: 10.5169/seals-650778.

Edited books

Vlad Atanasiu, Nicolas Chachereau, Enrico Natale, Christiane Sibille (ed.), Framing Communication Infrastructures (1950-2020). Discours et imaginaires − Diskurse und Vorstellungen, Zurich, Chronos, 2022 (Geschichte und Informatik / Histoire et Informatique 22). Presentation and PDF version.

Nicolas Chachereau, Enrico Natale, Christiane Sibille, Vlad Atanasiu, Gabriele Balbi (ed.), Enjeux politiques du web: approches historiques − Das Web als politische Herausforderung: historische Perspektiven, Zurich, Chronos, 2019 (Geschichte und Informatik / Histoire et Informatique 20). Presentation and PDF version.

Enrico Natale, Christiane Sibille, Nicolas Chachereau, Patrick Kammerer, Manuel Hiestand (ed.), La visualisation des données en histoire : Visualisierung von Daten in der Geschichtswissenschaft, Zurich, Chronos, 2015 (Geschichte und Informatik / Histoire et Informatique 18/19). Presentation and PDF version.


Review of Gabriel Galvez-Behar, Posséder la science. La propriété scientifique au temps du capitalisme industriel − reviewed in Ethnologie française, special issue «Gestes (dé)possédés», 2022/1, no 52, p. 177-179. Available online: DOI: 10.3917/ethn.221.0177

Review of Christoph Rauhut, Die Praxis der Baustelle um 1900. Das Zürcher Stadthaus − reviewed in Traverse. Revue d’histoire, 2020/3, p. 192. Available online.

Review of Lorenzo Tomasin, L’empreinte digitale. Culture humaniste et technologiereviewed for H-Soz-Kult 2.9.2019.

Review of Yann Decorzant et al. (ed.), Le Made in Switzerland: mythes, fonctions et réalités − reviewed in Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung, 2015, no 2, p. 95-98.

Review of Josef Egger, "Ein Wunderwerk der Technik". Frühe Computernutzung in der Schweiz (1960–1980)reviewed for H-Soz-Kult 9.1.2015.

Conference report: 2013 Conference, «L'édition en histoire à l'ère du numérique» (15 November 2013, Bern) − report for (published 27 January 2014).

Conference report: International Symposium «Diplomacy and Global Governance» (4 October 2013, Geneva) − reviewed for H-Soz-Kult, 5.3.2014.

Review of Christophe Bouneau et al. (ed.), Les paysages de l'électricité. Perspectives historiques et enjeux contemporains (XIXe-XXIe siècles) (2011) − reviewed for Traverse. Revue d’histoire, 2013/3, p. 160. Available online.

For my talks and conference panels see my curriculum vitae.