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The Appeal of Insurance

The Appeal of Insurance

Geoffrey Clark
Gregory Anderson
Christian Thomann
J.-Matthias Graf von der Schulenburg
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    The Appeal of Insurance
    Book Description:

    The Appeal of Insuranceexplores how insurance has grown in concert with a clientele largely of its own making. Drawing on the fields of history, sociology, criminology and economics, these essays illuminate the dialectical relationship between the expansion of business and the public demand for economic and social security.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8588-8
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    In October 1907, fresh out of school and having just completed his very first week at the Prague office of the Assicurazioni Generale, Franz Kafka reported to a friend, ‘The insurance business as such interests me very much, but my present work is dreary.’¹ A hundred years on, dealing with insurance and insurance companies is still often seen as a dreary business. Yet recently scholars across a number of disciplines have become fascinated, like Kafka in his more expansive moments, by the profound historical role that insurance has played in shaping contemporary economic institutions, techniques of government, mechanisms of social...

  6. 1 How to Tame Chance: Evolving Languages of Risk, Trust, and Expertise in Eighteenth-Century German Proto-Insurances
    (pp. 16-42)

    This essay re-examines the contradictory relationship between the emergence of ‘classical probability’ as a body of expertise and a style of thought and the modern market in life insurance, through a study of schemes for widows’ pensions (proto-life insurances) in eighteenth-century Germany. It focuses on the public debates touched off by the failure of two generations of pension schemes, the latter of which gave a critical impulse to the German reception of statistical probabilism. It argues that the distinction between risk-aversive and risk-taking behaviour that informs the vision of a historic ‘taming of chance’ is overdrawn and that lay, juridical,...

  7. 2 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s Work on Insurance
    (pp. 43-51)

    The appeal of insurance is not to be limited to insurance companies’ attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase their products or the desire of the new bourgeois class to ensure a certain standard of living even beyond the life of the breadwinner. Insurance also appealed to one of the most prominent scientists of the late seventeenth century: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. It may therefore be no coincidence that the conference on insurance history with the wonderful titleThe Appeal of Insurancetook place in Hanover in the Leibniz house, the former house of this great scientist, which belongs now to...

  8. 3 The Slave’s Appeal: Insurance and the Rise of Commercial Property
    (pp. 52-74)

    So wrote Samuel Marshall in the second edition of hisA Treatise on the Law of Insurance(1808) in the year following parliament’s abolition of the slave trade.¹ Whatever congratulations Marshall felt were due to the enlightened action of ‘the British legislature, roused by the calls of humanity’ was surely tempered by the uncomfortable knowledge that the nation’s commerce, and the insurance industry in particular, had profited handsomely from the slave trade up to that moment. Jurists like Marshall were caught in an ethical and legal predicament during the final decades of the licit slave trade, torn on the one...

  9. 4 Fire, Property Insurance, and Perceptions of Risk in Eighteenth-Century Britain
    (pp. 75-106)

    During the early modern period, the common response to natural disasters was a religious one. Catastrophic events had a didactic function as revelations of divine judgment on sin and human frailty, and as a ‘summons to the Cross.’¹ Epidemics, storms, floods, fires, and earthquakes were hailed as acts of God, with moral lessons to be drawn from them. A lapse in religious devotion, as well as imprudence in daily life, could lead to one downfall.² By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, ‘scientific approaches’ to natural hazards had largely triumphed in the Western world. The pulpit language of calamity and...

  10. 5 A Licence to Bet: Life Insurance and the Gambling Act in the British Courts
    (pp. 107-126)

    More directly than any other enterprise apart from slavery, life insurance sets a price on human life. As it evolved in Britain during the nineteenth century, the insurance industry introduced a dizzying number of variations on this theme. For the individual purchasing an insurance policy, the value of life was translated into the sum required to care for dependents, loss of access to a wife’s inheritance should she die before her father, the sum lost to a creditor in the event of death prior to repayment, and the loss of livelihood suffered by a tenant whose lease ended with the...

  11. 6 ‘The Rules of Prudence’: Political Liberalism and Life Assurance in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 127-150)

    Considering nineteenth-century British life assurance from the perspective of its appeal opens up a variety of questions. Most obviously, it calls attention to how the life assurance industry¹ sought to attract customers through its promotional work. This was no easy matter; life assurance was never going to sell itself. It was (and still is) a technically complex product, it sought to gain a foothold in a market saturated with competing savings and investment products, there were doubts about the financial safety and probity of a number of the companies trading in it, and if this were not enough, it provoked...

  12. 7 Honesty, Fidelity, and Insurance in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century England
    (pp. 151-172)

    By the late nineteenth century fidelity insurance was firmly established in Britain as the main mechanism for risk transfer in handling potential loss exposures resulting from the violation of trust. Although during the course of its development fidelity insurance was successfully adapted to meet a wide range of new contingencies, this chapter will deal with its original and primary function, which was to provide protection against acts of dishonesty by trusted employees in public and private companies and by officers of state.

    The historical process by which fidelity insurance achieved this position of importance was by no means a straightforward...

  13. 8 Competing Appeals: The Rise of Mixed Welfare Economies in Europe, 1850–1945
    (pp. 173-200)

    The period between the 1850s and the end of the Second World War was crucial for the expansion of a variety of insurance branches in Europe – for life insurance as well as for accident, sickness, disability, or old age insurance. Moreover, the insurance market, historically dominated by commercial insurance companies and friendly societies, was fundamentally transformed as the state entered the market through the foundation of the first types of social insurance since the latter decades of the nineteenth century. In most branches of the market, as in accident, disability, old age, or sickness insurance, private and public actors...

  14. 9 Employers and Industrial Accident Insurance in Spain, 1900–1963
    (pp. 201-225)

    One of the most pressing social contingencies in industrial societies was the problem of industrial accidents, which could have important consequences for workers and their families.¹ From the end of the nineteenth century, ‘reformist states’ promoted insurance, of either a compulsory or a voluntary nature, to cover this eventuality.² In the majority of cases, demand for this insurance originated with the workers, but it affected employers both in terms of their responsibility and with respect to costs. The stance employers adopted in the face of the legislating and reforming state, which could be either one of rejection or one of...

  15. 10 Five Ironies of Insurance
    (pp. 226-247)

    Insurance is the world’s largest industry. Evan Mills recently wrote in the journalSciencethat if insurance was a country, it would have the third biggest economy in the world.¹ Yet the historical and contemporary centrality of insurance is mostly neglected by academics. Comparable institutions like the mass media and the criminal justice system have whole subfields of hundreds of social scientists studying them. Yet insurance, while arguably as important, remains all but invisible to us sociologists and other academics, as well as to the public.

    A few key social theorists like Germany’s Ulrich Beck² have discussed in broad terms...