On 22 August 1864 twelve states, including Switzerland, signed the first Geneva Convention. To mark the 150th anniversary of this event the Swiss National Library (NL), in association with the library of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has digitised numerous source materials from the time. These can now be consulted on the websites of the NL and ICRC.

Both the Geneva Conventions and the Red Cross were the initiative of Henri Dunant from Geneva. An eyewitness to the Battle of Solferino in 1859, he was appalled by the lack of care for the wounded. He immediately organised aid on the battlefield, and in 1862 published his memoirs under the title Un souvenir de Solférino. The publication attracted great attention throughout Europe, and paved the way for the foundation of the Red Cross. February 1863 saw the establishment of the Internationale Komitee der Hilfsgesellschaften für die Verwundetenpflege or International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which since 1876 has been known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. In October 1863 the ICRC organised a conference in Geneva to lay the groundwork for the creation of Red Cross societies. In August 1864, at the request of the ICRC, the Swiss Federal Council convened a diplomatic conference on the protection of those injured in war, which ended with signing of the first Geneva Convention. From then on, the ICRC worked to promote the development of international humanitarian law.

The electronic dossier contains source materials from the initial period around 1864. Relevant books, brochures and journals have been carefully selected and digitised. The dossier also contains information from official publications, newspapers and periodicals that have already been digitised and that document each phase in the genesis of the Convention from a variety of perspectives. Overall, the dossier is broadly chronological in structure: It begins with a record of events and ends with satirical commentaries on the proceedings. Where texts are cited only as extracts or in summary form, there are links to the complete versions of the books and articles concerned.