© 2016

Mutual Insurance 1550-2015

From Guild Welfare and Friendly Societies to Contemporary Micro-Insurers


Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance book series (PSHF)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Marco H. D. van Leeuwen
    Pages 1-15
  3. Marco H. D. van Leeuwen
    Pages 17-82
  4. Marco H. D. van Leeuwen
    Pages 219-246
  5. Marco H. D. van Leeuwen
    Pages 247-279
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 281-321

About this book


In the modern Western world, we tend to be insured by the state or for-profit insurers. We have privileged this system over mutual or micro-insurance, whose long and rich history we tend to forget. Yet, mutual and micro-insurance is becoming increasingly important, both in the Western and in the non-Western world and bears re-examination.

This book traces the track record of mutual insurance from 1550 to the present, examining provisions for burial, sickness, unemployment, old age, and widowhood. The author seeks to address such topics as the type of risks micro-insurance covered between 1550 and 2015; how it was organized throughout its history; who provided the coverage; and how contributions, benefit levels, and conditions have changed.

Importantly, the author explores why this system has worked through, and endured, the test of time. Mutual insurance can, for instance, overcome classic insurance problems such as adverse selection and moral hazards. The author demonstrates that the study of the position micro-insurance historically assumed in mixed economies of welfare presents interesting lessons for today’s insurance market, as well as for today’s mutualism.


Mutualism Guilds Guild Boxes Fraternities Trade Unions Bread Fund Micro-Insurance Welfare Mixed Economy of Welfare Moral Hazards Collective Goods Welfare Economics Early Modern History Development Economics Commercial Insurance Social Security

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

About the authors

Marco H.D. van Leeuwen is a professor of social science history at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. He specializes in the study of global social inequality from 1500 to the present. Professor van Leeuwen is an honorary research fellow at the International Institute of Social History. He has written widely on social inequality and mobility as well as on philanthropy, charity, mutual aid, private and social insurance, and the history of risks. His work has been published in such journals as the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, The Economic History Review, the Journal of Social HistoryContinuity and Change, and the European Sociological Review.

Bibliographic information

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