Join the Mark Twain House and Museum on Wednesday, December 15th as the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Director of Collections Jodi DeBruyne sits down with author and historian Hannah Farber to discuss Farber’s new book Underwriters of the United States.
Unassuming but formidable, American maritime insurers used their position at the pinnacle of global trade to shape the new nation. The international information they gathered and the capital they generated enabled them to play central roles in state building and economic development. During the Revolution, they helped the U.S. negotiate foreign loans, sell state debts, and establish a single national bank. Afterward, they increased their influence by lending money to the federal government
and to its citizens. Even as federal and state governments began to encroach on their domain, maritime insurers adapted, preserving their autonomy and authority through extensive involvement in the formation of commercial law. Leveraging their claims to unmatched expertise, they operated free from government interference while simultaneously embedding themselves into the nation’s institutional fabric. By the early nineteenth century, insurers were no longer just risk assessors. They were nation builders and market makers.
FREE virtual program, although donations are gratefully accepted. REGISTER HERE. Copies of Underwriters of the United States will be available for purchase through the Mark Twain Store; proceeds benefit The Mark Twain House & Museum.
Hannah Farber is an assistant professor of history at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the political organization of the economy in colonial North America, the early American republic, and the Atlantic world. Her first book, Underwriters of the United States (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/UNC Press, 2021), explains how the transnational business of marine insurance influenced the establishment and early development of the American state.
Professor Farber also writes about the visual and material culture of ocean commerce. Recent research has focused on the eighteenth-century bill of lading and on commercial property markings as forms of communication with visual, material, and legal aspects. Professor Farber is an editor of the American Beginnings, 1500-1900 series at the University of Chicago Press. She held a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for scholarship at the New-York Historical Society in 2020-2021. She received her MA and PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley.