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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Actuarial history for the making

I’m writing this to ask for volunteers, particularly younger persons,
to come forward to write historical articles for The Actuary
and perhaps elsewhere.
The Institute library’s special collection at Staple Inn and the
Faculty library’s collection at Edinburgh University are rich in
historical material offering great potential for new study. The
profession’s acquisition of the Equitable Life Assurance Society
archive will be a further source for research of actuarial history.
There is no shortage of themes waiting to be researched. Virtually
all of the second half of the 19th century and most of the
20th century are open fields. Currently, few professional historians
write on actuarial or insurance history, possibly because
their training does not focus on the relevant requirements.
Here are a few topics for possible research to support articles:
°? William Morgan of the Equitable, researched from actuarial
sources. (The current Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
entry was written by a philosopher.)
°? Hilary Seal’s role in pioneering the use of statistics in the
profession and the theoretical work by distinguished predecessor
members that the profession did not make use of.
°? Demographic changes and the accuracy of past forecasts.
(Lancelot Hogben edited a symposium on demographic studies
in 1937 and, nearly 70 years later, some of the population
estimates give food for thought. Demography is a natural field
for actuaries and was once part of the subjects in the Institute’s
°? The development of non-life insurance mathematics in
the 20th century.
°? Life assurance in the middle of the 19th century. (There
are comprehensive life assurance company prospectuses for
the late 1830s and the late 1880s in the profession’s libraries.)
°? The mathematical needs of practising actuaries as seen
from the profession’s examination papers from early times
to the present day.
Our librarians can provide a list of broad-based background
material, some of which could repay reading before starting to
write. Writing an article on a single subject involves much
research and takes a lot of time but a deep knowledge of actuarial
history is not usually necessary. Relating what happened in
a subject with little interpretation is normally acceptable. Further,
the librarians will be glad to look for persons with relevant
experience to offer guidance in the preparation of articles. If you
are considering writing historical articles and you wish to discuss
any points, the librarians would also be glad to arrange contact
with those with established knowledge who can advise you.
Authors can reasonably expect to receive a small amount of
correspondence about their articles from others interested in
the field. There may be opportunities to make presentations on
historical subjects to actuarial societies and in the course of time
there may be opportunities to write for academic publishers.
Publication of an article can be very satisfying for the author.
If you are interested, please contact David Raymont at Staple
Inn, tel 020-7632 2114, email david.raymont@actuaries.org.uk.