The Journal of Economic History


Tontines, Public Finance, and Revolution in France and England, 1688–1789

David R. Weira1

a1 Associate Professor of Economics at Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520


Tontines were used more extensively by France than Britain. Comparative tontine history illuminates the differing evolution of public finance in the two countries and its political consequences. Archival materials establish the number of participants in French tontines. Internal rates of return on tontines and alternatives show subsidy of tontines by the French government. Repudiation in 1770 contributed to the political attitudes of life annuitants, the most important class of state creditors, during the fiscal crisis of the late 1780s.