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Invested in identity: the Freemasons' Tontine of 1775

Citation: Clements, Diane (2018) Invested in identity: the Freemasons' Tontine of 1775. Masters thesis, University of London, School of Advanced Study.

Diane Clements Freemans' Tontine of 1775.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

A tontine is an annuity contingent on the survival of a nominated life. The relationship between the issuer of, and investors and nominees in, a tontine allows for consideration of investment decisions made by a defined group, including an evaluation of attitudes to risk, alongside an enquiry into the monitoring of identities, and communications, within that group. Tontines were used by the British government and were adopted in the later eighteenth century by non-state entities to finance buildings and infrastructure. English freemasons used a tontine in 1775 to finance the building of the first Freemasons’ Hall in London. The survival of records for this tontine until its maturity in 1862 has facilitated this innovative examination of investors and their decisions over its life. Tontine investors were drawn from the property-owning, commercial and professional classes, largely male but with a significant part played by widows and spinsters. Investment in a tontine could be a rational choice rather than a gamble and there was a consistent pattern of investment to benefit both the individual investor and extended family. Contemporary concern about fraud required the issuer to monitor the identities of investors who, in turn, had to find ways of asserting their legal personality to justify claims. Identification and communication drew on investors’ self-interest, newspaper advertising and amenable third-party witnesses. This dissertation provides the first comprehensive study of the motivations for, and dynamics of, a non-state tontine from creation to conclusion and from the multiple perspectives of its initiator, investors and beneficiaries.

Creators: Clements, Diane and
Subjects: History
Keywords: tontine, investment, identity, family, gambling, Freemasons
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Dissertation
Theses and Dissertations
  • 31 September 2018 (submitted)
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