On November 21st, Chris Kingston, professor in Economics at Amherst College, presented findings from a long-term project on institutional formation and equilibria, based on data from maritime insurance in the 1700s. Using data on insurance contracts and relevant regulations, Kingston was able to explain why insurers in Europe tended to rely on a clearing house model, where brokers matched merchants with individual insurers, whereas in the American colonies insurance was very quickly corporatized and remained so. This work is relevant to examining how similar systems can settle and remain in different institutional equilibria, and the role of public policy limiting the set of possible equilibria.
Regarding his research, he specifies:
"Most of my current research explores how the institutions governing marine insurance evolved during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Over time, two different kinds of institutions emerged: in Britain, a marketplace for private underwriting by individuals (Lloyd's of London); and elsewhere, joint-stock corporations. I use a combination of archival evidence and game theory to explore how these institutions functioned and how they changed over time. A common theme is that by disrupting information flows and increasing risk, the wars of the eighteenth century created the stimulus which drove institutional change in the marine insurance industry."
Kingston is on sabbatical from his position at Amherst for the 2016-2017 academic year.