Plzeňské sympozia

Vojtěch Pojar

Life insurance and Czech society 1869–1913

pp. 122–133 (Czech), Summary 132 (English), 133 (Deutsch)

The author of this study endeavours to show that even a traditional economic history subject such as the history of the insurance sector and insurance may be analysed meaningfully using cultural or culturally oriented social history methods. His study analyses the changes in the attitude of Czech society towards life insurance over the ''long'' 20th century. It shows that in its initial stages in the Czech lands insurance did not serve as a source of security, but to a great extent involved a kind of gambling. The greater expansion of ''respectable'' life insurance was prevented for a long time by elements of the traditional mentality of the Czech middle classes, primarily in the small town and rural environment. The primary precondition for the ''domestication'' of life insurance was the modernization of the attitude towards money, which had to replace older sources of life security. At the same time the habit of diversifying the risk of saving money also had to be encouraged. Analysis indicates that the change in mentality in relation to the diversification of risk can be observed from the end of the 1880s. This transformation came to a head with the 1900-1903 economic crisis. The thesis is supported by statistics on the rapid rate of expansion of life insurance in Czech society during this period and analyses of changing argument strategies in insurance companies' advertising communications.

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