The Equation of Life in the East India Company Armies: Statistical Arguments for the provision of Private Pensions

Philip Talbot


The basis for mortality tables that underpin life insurance plans are based on the statistics at each age of mortality. This had first been attempted by the English astronomer Halley in 1692 based on German sources since none were available in Great Britain (Bacaër: 2011).  However, the first mortality statistics to be used by insurance companies did not appear until the late eighteenth century with the use of the inaccurate Northampton tables that were extensively used by insurance companies in and outside of Great Britain (Rothschild, 2009). In 1847 a further unique contribution to mortality tables was offered by an ex-officer of the East India Company Army William Henry Sykes who argued for cheaper premiums to be available for the native soldiers and their dependants in India.

Sykes’s work is grounded in the prolific statistical movement of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries derived from the copious statistics of the East India Company Armies that he had access to as a Company director. This paper seeks to place Sykes’s innovative work as an early prominent statistician within his personal military experience and the unique position of the wealthy East India Company a trading company that also grew into a powerful military and naval force.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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