William Emmanuel Rappard was born in New York City on 22nd April 1883 to Swiss parents. His father was working in the United States as a representative of various Swiss industries. Rappard did his graduate studies in economics at Harvard University from 1906 to 1908. During the academic year 1908-1909 he carried out additional studies at the University of Vienna in Austria-Hungary, attending the seminars of Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk and Eugen Philippovich von Philippsberg, two of the leading figures of the Austrian school of economics before the First World War. From 1911 to 1913, he was an adjunct Professor of Political Economy at Harvard.
In 1913 he was appointed Professor of Economic History and Public Finance at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. He also served as Rector of the University of Geneva from 1926-1928 and 1936-1938. From 1917 to 1919, Rappard was a member of various Swiss diplomatic missions to Washington, D. C., London, and Paris, including service with the Swiss delegation to the peace conference in France that ended the First World War. He made a strong impression on President Woodrow Wilson and was highly influential in persuading him to choose Geneva as the headquarters of the League of Nations. From 1920 to 1925 he was the director of the Mandates Division of the League for overseeing the administration of colonial territories lost by the Central Powers at the end of the war, and was a member of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League from 1925 to 1939. From 1928 to 1939 he also served as a member of the Swiss delegation to the annual meetings of the League’s General Assembly. In the struggle for classical-liberal and free-trade ideals, Rappard’s greatest institutional contribution between the world wars was his co-founding in 1927 of the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva, with Paul Mantoux, the internationally respected economic historian and expert on the Industrial Revolution.
William Rappard’s major publications are: La revolution industrielle et les origines de la protection légale du travail en Suisse, 1914; Switzerland and Collective Security, The New Commonwealth Quarterly,1936; Pennsylvania and Switzerland: The American Origins of the Swiss Constitution 1940, reprinted in Varia Politica: Publiés Réimprimés à L’occasion du Soixante- dixième Annniversaire de William E. Rappard, Zurich 1953; Switzerland and Democracy, Fortnightly Review, 1937; The Government of Switzerland, New York 1936; The Practical Working of the Mandates System, 1925, reprinted in Varia Politica, Human Rights and Mandated Territories, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1946; Why Peace Failed, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1940; The Common Menace of Economic and Military Armaments, 1936, reprinted in Varia Politica, Economic Nationalism, in Authority and the Individual: Harvard Tercentenary Conference of Arts and Science,Cambridge 1937; The Secret of American Prosperity, New York 1955; Die Bundesverfassung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, 1848-1948;