New Books Network

Sharon Ann Murphy

Investing in Life

Insurance in Antebellum America

Johns Hopkins University Press 2010

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 19, 2013 Dan Kilbride

Life insurance! The very word sends shivers of excitement down the spine. OK, maybe not . . . but Sharon Murphy‘s book on the...

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.