Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America

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JHU Press, Dec 29, 2010 - History - 416 pages
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Investing in Life considers the creation and expansion of the American life insurance industry from its early origins in the 1810s through the 1860s and examines how its growth paralleled and influenced the emergence of the middle class.

Using the economic instability of the period as her backdrop, Sharon Ann Murphy also analyzes changing roles for women; the attempts to adapt slavery to an urban, industrialized setting; the rise of statistical thinking; and efforts to regulate the business environment. Her research directly challenges the conclusions of previous scholars who have dismissed the importance of the earliest industry innovators while exaggerating clerical opposition to life insurance.

Murphy examines insurance as both a business and a social phenomenon. She looks at how insurance companies positioned themselves within the marketplace, calculated risks associated with disease, intemperance, occupational hazard, and war, and battled fraud, murder, and suicide. She also discusses the role of consumers—their reasons for purchasing life insurance, their perceptions of the industry, and how their desires and demands shaped the ultimate product.

 

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Contents

Introduction New Risks in a Changing World
1
THE CREATION OF AN INDUSTRY
11
REACHING OUT TO THE MIDDLE CLASS
123
COOPERATION COMPETITION AND THE QUEST FOR STABILITY
239
Conclusion Have you provided for your Family an Insurance on your Life?
297
Appendix
301
Notes
313
Essay on Sources
373
Index
383
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About the author (2010)

Sharon Ann Murphy is an associate professor of history at Providence College.

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