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Historical collections

The libraries’ special collections relate to the origins, creation and development of actuarial science and practice and offer a rich resource for researchers of demographic, financial, and insurance history

The historical collections developed from the donation of original texts on the formation of the Institute of Actuaries in 1848 and of the Faculty of Actuaries in Scotland in 1856. New acquisition of relevant historic texts and manuscripts dating before 1860 continues to this day. In 2006 the Institute of Actuaries acquired the Archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, established in 1762 and the first insurance office to operate on scientific lines using actuarial mathematics and mortality analysis.

Subjects represented in the historical collections include:

  • early insurance and pensions
  • demography (particularly mortality trends of populations)
  • commercial arithmetic (application of compound interest in accumulating funds
  • statistics and probability theory leading to calculations of life expectation
  • the business of offering life assurance and pensions based on 'actuarial' mathematics. 

Most texts are in English but there are significant items for actuarial science from France, Germany and Holland. There is also much evidence from insurance offices of the work of 'actuaries' who emerged from the late eighteenth century, those in the nineteenth century forming the first professional bodies, the Institute of Actuaries in 1848 and Faculty of Actuaries in 1856.

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) also preserves its own archives documenting the professional association work of the original Faculty and Institute since their foundation.

Access to the collection

The IFoA welcomes bona fide research requests to view items in the main special library collections of books, manuscripts and archives by appointment.

If you would like to view items in our collections please contact We may facilitate your visits to view items held by the organisations shown above by arrangement.

Please consult our combined catalogue listing of the Books, manuscripts and documents dating before 1901 in the libraries of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries arranged by author or lead title. In enquiries about items, please cite the RKN or library catalogue numbers of items of interest. Researchers may also now search our Library catalogue for pre-1901 items and 'request' to arrange to see items of interest at the IFoA Library by appointment.

There are document listings of the archives in the Equitable Life Assurance Society (ELAS) Archive 1762-1975 held by the IFoA and at Guildhall Library, London.

The historical collections are held in secure locations as outlined below:

Historical resource Location Catalogue access to holdings
Institute of Actuaries special historical collections
(books and manuscripts)
IFoA London (viewing by appointment)

Books, manuscripts and documents dating before 1901 in the libraries of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries

Library catalogue

Institute of Actuaries publications and profession records IFoA London Search Library catalogue (for Institute and Faculty publications)
IFoA Library searches database to identify and retrieve profession records upon enquiry.
Faculty of Actuaries special historical collection IFoA Edinburgh (viewing by appointment)

Books, manuscripts and documents dating before 1901 in the libraries of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries

Library catalogue

Faculty of Actuaries publications and profession records IFoA Edinburgh Search Library catalogue (for Institute and Faculty publications)
IFoA Library searches database to identify and retrieve profession records upon enquiry.
Equitable Life Assurance Society archive, (ca.1762-1833) IFoA London (viewing by appointment) Equitable Life Assurance Society (ELAS) Archive 1762-1975, IFoA, London
Equitable Life Assurance Society archive, (ca.1830-1950) London Guildhall Library
Apply to London Metropolitan Archives for access
Equitable Life Assurance Society (ELAS) Archive 1803-1976, Guildhall Library, London

Related documents

Contact Details

For any library enquiries please contact:

We try to respond to email queries within one working day. Researcher access to historical resources may require notice in advance of visit in order to retrieve items from storage.

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Events calendar

  • Spaces available

    Climate-Related Risk - This free to view webinar on Climate-Related Risk is the first in a series focusing on some of the ‘Hotspots’ identified in the JFAR Risk Perspective bringing the Risk Perspective to life with practical illustrations and insights from subject experts from the IFoA and other Regulators

  • Spaces available

    Recent decades have seen institutions, such as employers and financial services, give people more choice and flexibility, but these freedoms have come with more responsibilities. Individuals are now responsible for managing more of their own financial risks, from ensuring they put enough money into their pension to securing affordable protection to be financially resilient.

  • Actuarial Innovation in the COVID-19 era

    This event is online. 
    26 April 2021 - 7 May 2021
    Spaces available

    Join us for this brand new IFoA webinar weries comprising of a fortnight of webinars, panel sessions and a hackathon, that showcase the range of ways in which the actuarial profession has added value, in the public interest, to the understanding and management of the current and future pandemics through insight and learning.

  • Spaces available

    This event is now temporarily closed on Monday 26 April, but the session will be repeated on Tuesday 27 April, 09.00-10.30. Please click here to register your place. 

    Actuaries have a lot to offer biodiversity management over the next decade as the world develops more depth to its response to this global challenge. This sessional offers an opportunity to learn about this emergent risk, to contribute to our thinking as a profession and help us develop the next steps forward.

  • Europe Town Hall

    28 April 2021

    Spaces available

    IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual Europe Town Hall, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Members Alan Rae, Jennifer Hartley, Maribel Vasquez Flores and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.

  • Spaces available

    Sessional Meeting - Free to viewMis-estimation risk is a key element of demographic risk, and past work has focused on mis-estimation risk on a run-off basis.  However, this does not meet the requirements of regulatory regimes like Solvency II, which demands that capital requirements are set through the prism of a finite horizon like one year.  This paper presents a value-at-risk approach to mis-estimation risk suitable for Solvency II work

  • Finance & Investment Virtual Conference 2021

    Available to watch globally in May.
    10-12 May 2021
    Spaces available

    This year's Finance and Investment Virtual Conference takes on the timely theme of ‘resilience’, something we have all learnt a lot more about in the last year! Our diverse range of talks will explore the theme of resilience in a variety of ways including in building robust investment portfolios, in the incorporation of ESG factors, in govern

  • Spaces available

    This talk will explore the potential benefits that wearable tech can bring to health & protection insurers and their customers. The traditional approach of integrating wearables into insurance has largely focused on measuring steps and using rewards-based incentive programs to encourage more activity.

  • Spaces available

    Join us for this talk with Professor Sir Adrian Smith as part of the 'Dr Patrick Poon Presidential Speaker Series'. Professor Smith joined The Alan Turing Institute as Institute Director and Chief Executive in September 2018. In November 2020, he became President of the Royal Society, in addition to his leadership of the Turing. He is also a member of the government's AI Council, which helps boost AI growth in the UK and promote its adoption and ethical use in businesses and organisations across the country. He received a knighthood in the 2011 New Year Honours list.


  • CILA 2021

    Available to watch globally in May.
    19-21 May 2021
    Spaces available

    We continue to live in a world of global uncertainty. Survival depends on our ability to simultaneously navigate through the diverse root-causes, ranging from: the consequences of Climate Change; on-going financial consequences of the COVID pandemic; or self-imposed changes in regulatory requirements and accounting standards.

  • Pensions Conference 2021

    Online webinar series
    16-22 June 2021
    Spaces available

    Welcome to the programme for our 2nd Virtual Pensions Conference. This year's conference features 11 webinars offering members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the pension industry. There will also be opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.