Join our email listserv and receive monthly updates on the latest titles.

Hopkins Fulfillment Services

Investing in Life

, 416 pages

5 halftones, 1 line drawing

September 2010



Availability Text

Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.

Investing in Life

Insurance in Antebellum America

Winner, Hagley Prize in Business History, Hagley Museum and Library and the Business History Conference

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.

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

"A well-written, well-argued book that makes a number of important contributions to the history of business and capitalism in antebellum America."

"An intriguing, instructive history of the establishment and development of the life insurance industry that reveals a good deal about changing social and commercial conditions in antebellum America... Highly recommended."

" Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America is an exemplary piece of scholarship that upon publication immediately became the standard work in the field."

"Informative... Murphy's account indicates that virtually every issue and problem faced by the modern life insurance industry was present at its beginnings two centuries ago."

"This book makes a fine contribution to the study of the history of the insurance business."

"A meticulous history of a significant but understudied event in the making of liberalism, the invention of life insurance."

"Murphy has filled a gap in the historiography of American life insurance by mining the records of several companies that shaped the industry from 1830 through the Civil War... In pursuing her arguments, she discloses an impressive array of insights that shed light on American business and culture more generally."

"In this sparkling volume, Sharon Ann Murphy makes an enormous contribution to scholarship in a wide range of fields... Murphy’s careful and close examination of life insurance as a new and vital safety valve for thousands of emerging middle-class households touches on just about every niche in the historical panorama... I highly recommend this wide-ranging and multifaceted survey of the rise of the life insurance sector, its customers, and its beneficiaries."

"This under described state is the part of what makes Investing in Life so rewarding, but the book is carefully crafted enough to hold its own in any case."

"A highly readable book detailing the rise of the American insurance industry up to and through the Civil War... Important and provocative."

" Investing in Life represents absolutely first-rate research into the early history of the American life insurance industry. Murphy has dug deeply into corporate archives, the insurance and wider business press, metropolitan newspapers, and appellate legal opinions. The result is a deft reconstruction of the evolution of corporate strategies for marketing and organization, as well as the ambivalent popular responses to life insurance, especially among the urban middle class."

"A very thorough examination of the birth and growth of the life insurance industry in America from the early 1800s through the Civil War. The author's research is exceptional... In short, this excellent book provides a look at matters of life and death in the Civil War era that you may not have considered before."

Related Books