1st Edition

The Tontine: A History

By Andrew McDiarmid Copyright 2025
    128 Pages
    by Routledge

    Starting in the late seventeenth century, for over 200 years the tontine was a ubiquitous financial instrument. As a revenue-raising tool of governments it supported the cost of war, and as a private capital-raising instrument it provided funding for numerous projects; including meeting rooms and libraries, prisons and theatres, and private residences and hotels.

    While the tontine is known today mainly through fiction (Robert Louis Stevenson, Agatha Christie, and The Simpsons among others), this book tells the real history of how it evolved from a public revenue-raising scheme into a popular private investment and infrastructure financing tool, before being displaced by other financial instruments. Focusing on the early development of the tontine and with case studies from England, Ireland, France, Scotland, and the United States from the mid-seventeenth to the early- twentieth centuries, the narrative brings to life the story of a little-understood financial innovation.

    This concise and engaging book is an ideal introduction to the history of the tontine for all readers interested in financial history.

    1.The Tontine: Here, There and Everywhere

    2.The Origins and Early Examples of the Tontine: 1602-1699 

    3.Public Tontines in the Eighteenth Century

    4.Private Tontines in Great Britain and Ireland, Europe, and North America: 1750-1900

    5.The Rise and Fall of Tontine Life Insurance in the United States, 1867-1906

    6.The Long Shadow of the Tontine




    Andrew McDiarmid earned his PhD from the University of Dundee and attended Yale University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on financial history from the early modern period to the twentieth century, with his first monograph on the subject of the Scottish Financial Revolution released in 2023. He is currently the SFI/IRC pathways fellow at University College Dublin, where he is undertaking a major project exploring the history of tontines between the seventeenth- nineteenth centuries.