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Leases for Lives
Life Contingent Contracts and the Emergence of Actuarial Science in Eighteenth-Century England


  • Date Published: July 2017
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107111769

£ 111.00

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About the Authors
  • Many historians of insurance have commented on the disconnect between the rise of English life insurance companies in the early eighteenth century and the mathematics behind the sound pricing of life insurance products that was developed at about the same time. Insurance and annuity promoters typically ignored this mathematical work. Bellhouse explores this issue, and shows that the early mathematical work was not motivated by insurance but instead by the fair valuation of life contingent contracts related to property. Even the work of the mathematician James Dodson in the creation of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, offering sound actuarially based premiums, did not change the industry in any significant way. The tipping point was a crisis in 1770 in which the philosopher and mathematician Richard Price, as well as other mathematicians, showed that a dozen or more recently formed annuity societies could not meet their financial obligations and were inviable.

    • Allows the general reader to appreciate some of the problems of funding insurance schemes without knowing the background mathematics
    • Gives insight into the early disconnect between mathematicians and the insurance industry
    • Explains when the insurance industry slowly came to adopt the mathematical approaches to pricing their products
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a distinctive work of scholarship, visiting ground that has never been as thoroughly subjected to such deep and expert examination. Bellhouse is especially knowledgeable about early English probability and its milieu, and about actuarial science. There is no one comparable in this combination of skills, and he is a master of the relevant archives as well.' Stephen Stigler, University of Chicago

    'Bellhouse has surveyed a relatively neglected but important literature in the development of probability and statistics. The book is written with care and meticulous attention to detail, and the results are particularly interesting.' Sandy Zabell, Northwestern University

    'Bellhouse (statistics, Univ. of Western Ontario) has produced a one-of-a-kind history of actuarial science in 18th-century England … All collections serving actuarial, history of science, and English history scholarship should have this informative, fascinating book. Summing Up: Recommended.' W. R. Lee, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107111769
    • length: 270 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Mathematics and property in the seventeenth century
    3. Edmond Halley's life table
    4. Halley's impact or lack of it
    5. De Moivre and his early influence
    6. Mathematicians as consultants
    7. Mathematicians and early life insurance companies
    8. The annuity bubble of the 1760s and 70s
    9. The after shocks of the bubble on life annuities
    10. Developments in the life insurance industry in the later eighteenth century
    11. A return to roots
    12. Conclusion
    Appendix I. Technical appendix
    Appendix II. Life tables

  • Author

    David R. Bellhouse, University of Western Ontario
    David R. Bellhouse holds degrees in actuarial science and in statistics. He has been at the University of Western Ontario for more than forty years, where he now is Professor Emeritus. He has published extensively in the history of probability, statistics, and actuarial science, and has recently published a major biography of Abraham De Moivre. Bellhouse is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and has served as President of the Statistical Society of Canada. He is a recipient of the University of Western Ontario's Gold Medal for Excellence in Teaching, and recently received the University of Manitoba Faculty of Science Honoured Alumni Award.

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