The FDFA was established in 1848 and initially called the Federal Political Department. In 1961, divisions responsible for official development assistance and relations with Europe were formed. In 1979, the name was changed to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the position of FDFA state secretary was also created.
As of 1848, the Federal State was governed by the Federal Council, each of whose seven members headed one of the seven federal departments. The Federal Political Department (FPD) was tasked with Switzerland’s foreign policy, and at the time was headed by the Swiss president for a one-year term. With very limited means at its disposal, it boasted but a handful of officers in Bern and a meagre diplomatic and consular network abroad.