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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 collections

The IFoA welcomes bona fide research requests to consult books, manuscripts and archives by appointment. Please note that access to the historical and archives collections, and our ability to arrange in person consultation visits, is currently restricted, but if you have an enquiry about items in our collections please contact the Library team

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.

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 (viewing by appointment) 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 (viewing by appointment) 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

    The Actuaries’ Carbon Collaboration (ACC) is a group of actuaries and other professionals working towards a coherent understanding of the issues around greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by considering them in an actuarial context.

    Emissions into and absorption from the atmosphere can be modelled in the same way that we model variable cash flows, including the impacts of uncertain quantities and timing. The ACC’s work investigates both the insights that this analogy provides and its limitations.

  • Spaces available

    This talk presents the work of the Data and Modelling workstream of the IFoA Mental Health Working Party. We explore data and modelling considerations in the risk assessment and underwriting of mental health conditions. We will also consider how newer risk factors and improved data availability might open up opportunities for additional underwriting and product designs.

  • Pensions Dashboards

    12 July 2022

    Spaces available

    As the industry prepares for Pensions Dashboards, we have lined up a specialist panel who is at the heart of the ongoing work in this area. Hear the latest developments, future proposals and have the opportunity to put forward your questions to our speakers.

  • Spaces available

    Crisis management, the process by which an organization deals with a disruptive, sudden and unexpected event that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders, has become a key concern in the light of the Pandemic and Geopolitical risks.

  • Spaces available

    Artificial Intelligence is heralded as a game-changer to the ways industries use data, with the insurance industry especially looking to embrace these new technologies. This brings many questions – not least around data privacy, ethics, potential biases and so on – with regulators increasingly interested in developments.

    Moreover, whilst the stunning progress of specific technologies such as Watson and Alphazero made headlines some years ago, current commercial applications of AI remain far from mature.

  • Spaces available

    This webinar will cover:

    • Some background on the risks of misselling in an ESG context, including the DWS case

    • Achieving positive impact is a strong antidote to the risks of greenwashing or ESG misselling, however this risks having a tension with fiduciary responsibilities

    • This tension can be resolved with a concept called Universal Ownership

    • Under Universal ownership, investors have an appetite to make a loss in order to achieve positive impact, and yet still have no compromise on their fiduciary responsibilities

  • Spaces available

    This session will focus on the transformation roadmap of the healthcare sector in KSA and the role of actuarial capabilities in enhancing its evolution to the desired end stage as per the objectives of the Vision 2030. The discussion will focus how the system has evolved so far and shed light on  the expected future changes. Through examining  the transformation, we will highlight how the sector is and can use actuarial  expertise to not only assist with this transformation but also use basic actuarial principles to identify the key risks and their respective mitigation strategies.

  • Spaces available

    The purpose of this research paper is to explore enterprise risk management lessons which can be learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic in preparation for potential future pandemics as well as other “gray rhino” or “black swan” events. This paper is not intended to be an all-encompassing solution to the issues presented by Covid-19; rather, the content has been provided to help drive discussions regarding how risk management processes may need to evolve in line with the dynamic nature of the underlying risks that they sometimes need to capture.

  • Spaces available

    The IFoA's Infrastructure Working Party, led by Chris Lewin, will present its new introductory guide to infrastructure investment, which will be published on the IFoA web-site prior to the webinar.   Those readers whose institutions have already taken the plunge into infrastructure will know that it is a highly complex and diverse field of activity.   This guide does not explore all the matters which investors take into account, but it does discuss many of the more important points, including the risks and past returns, benchmarking, and ESG and SDG considerations.    Attendees will be invi

  • Spaces available

    Health contributes to happiness at the personal, family, community and societal level.  Health, importantly underpins all our economic security. This talk will explore the drivers of our health, the measurement of health and the steps we can take to improve health – most of which lie outside the NHS.