Tribute to Pierre du Bois

The abrupt and premature death of Pierre du Bois plunges the Relations Internationales journal, as well as the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies into suffering. The journal owes much to our colleague: for years, he carried out the co-presidency with great efficiency and with the smiling elegance that characterised him.

After studying history at the University of Lausanne and the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, where he was the pupil of Jean Touchard, Pierre du Bois dedicated his PhD thesis to a subject that was very new at the time: a biography of the writer Pierre Drieu la Rochelle. A subject so new that the thesis examination meeting gave rise to an unaccustomed tournament between the points of view of the candidate and those of some jury members or of the assistance. Then, thanks to his nomination to the Institut d'études européennes founded by D. de Rougemont, Pierre du Bois devoted himself to the study of European construction, an orientation strengthened several years after by his nomination to the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies , where he occupied with brilliance a chair devoted to the same theme. Several works marked out this area of research, works in which Pierre du Bois scrutinised in particular the relations and the position of Switzerland and the European Union. A history of the European currency, the Euro, would soon follow, published posthumously sadly, to crown this effort.

But Pierre du Bois was not a man to allow himself to remain locked in this theme, important as it was. A great reader, with a cultivated spirit, his curiosity and risks in life took him to other horizons too. Through his marriage to his wife, Ina, a Romanian, he was fascinated by the history of Romania and that of Eastern Europe, in which he became an outstanding expert. He dedicated some excellent studies on this theme, about the accession to power of Ceaucescu or on pre-Communist Romania. A teaching role at the Diplomatische Akademie in Vienna brought with it a longterm interest in Eastern Europe, an interest which extended to all forms of art from that region, which he appreciated as an aesthete. Furthermore, because of his family history, he gave great attention to the problems arising in Switzerland with its different linguistic and cultural areas. This resulted in pioneering studies on the union and disunity of the Swiss, as well as a history of the major events that led to the Sonderbund war, a history which was a model of brilliant popularization.

Gifted with an artistic and vivid sensitivity and a sharp sense of life, Pierre du Bois knew how to present with finesse and depth the subjects that he tackled. With his writing gifts, he linked the written word, enhanced with an unfailing and kind humour. All these qualities made him a valued and adored teacher by his students, whether in Geneva, Strasbourg or Neuchâtel, where he was associate professor for a long time in the fields of history and journalism. With his death, we are losing a highly valued colleague and for some of us, a friend whose memory will last for ever.


Philippe Marguerat
Université de Neuchâtel
Relations Internationales, No. 132, Winter 2007