Sharon Ann Murphy, "Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2010)


Life insurance! The very word sends shivers of excitement down the spine. OK, maybe not . . . but Sharon Murphy's book on the development of the life insurance industry in the United States from its infancy in the early republic through its breakthrough as a mass industry during the Civil War might make you change your mind. Deeply researched but also deeply entertaining (really!), Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010; paperback, 2013) describes how the early pioneers of the insurance industry figured out how to sniff out frauds, figure mortality tables, market themselves to a suspicious population, and tap into middle class hopes and anxieties -- especially middle-class Americans reticence about thinking about death (their death, at least). Investing in Life will change what you think about the history of business in the United States.

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