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Dr Adrian Leonard

Dr Adrian Leonard

Associate Director, Centre for Financial History at Darwin College

Editorial Board Member, Cambridge Working Papers in Economic & Social History

President (Emeritus) of the Cambridge University History Society (Clio)

Consultant, Haggie Partners

Adrian Leonard is available for consultancy.


I am Associate Director and a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Financial History at Darwin College. I am an economic and social historian; my main area of interest is marine insurance in Britain, the British Empire, and around the world from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. Current research projects include a history of commercial insurance in London in the twentieth century. Meanwhile I am editor of the volume, in the Palgrave Macmillan History of Finance Series, Marine InsuranceOrigins and Institutions, and of The Caribbean and Atlantic World Economy, also Palgrave, both published 2015. Several other journal articles and book chapters are under way.

I completed my PhD in the Faculty of History under Professor Martin Daunton. My PhD research explores the development and long-term success of London’s international marine insurance market, which has been the world leader in this critical financial service industry for about 300 years. It focuses on qualitative analysis, drawing on extensive archival sources, and approached in part through the framework of institutional economics. It attempts to pin down the elements of this, perhaps unique, success. Earlier research findings have been published in the December, 2012 edition of Historical Journal, and in a chapter of the book Questioning Credible Commitment: Perspectives on the Rise of Financial Capital, published by Cambridge University Press in September 2013. 

I completed my MPhil at Trinity Hall, immediately after completing an undergraduate degree in History at Hughes Hall. Before returning to higher education, I spent twenty years as a writer and editor in the financial services sector.

Subject groups/Research projects

Economic, Social and Cultural History:

Research Interests

Marine insurance; seventeenth and eighteenth century British commerce, merchant communities, and law; risk vs. uncertainty and their contribution to capitalist profit; the development and application of probability theory; Atlantic and East Indies trade and the East India Companies; commitment mechanisms in the context of new Institutional Economics.

Research Supervision

Currently I am supervising an masters dissertation on English trade in the 1690s.


I supervise History Paper Nine and Economics Paper Five. I am teaching and lecturing in the Economics Faculty's new Part IIB paper Quantitative Topics in Economic History, and in the History Faculty on the Atlantic World and on the Financial Revolution, and for the Paper Nine class Trade & Commerce. 

Other Professional Activities

Outside academia, I consult on communications for the insurance sector privately and through Haggie Partners. I am Foreign Desk Chief of the magazine Leader's Edge, published by the US Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers. 


  • Economic, Social History
  • Imperial History
  • Early Modern History

Key Publications

- Co-editor (with Hoppit, Julian and Needham, Duncan): Money and Markets Essays in Honour of Martin Daunton,  (Boydell, forthcoming, 2019).

- ‘Marine insurers, the City of London, and financing the Napoleonic Wars’ in above.

- Editor: Marine Insurance: origins and institutions. Palgrave Macmillan, History of Finance Series (2015).

- 'Marine insurance and the Law Merchat' in above. 

- Co-editor (with Pretel, David): The Caribbean and the Atlantic World economy: circuits of trade, money and knowledge, 1650-1914. Palgrave Macmillan, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series (2015).

- ‘From local to transatlantic: insuring trade in the Caribbean’ in above.

- Co-editor (with O’Reilly, William and Coffman, D’Maris): The Atlantic World. Routledge, Worlds Series (2014).

- ‘Reassessing the Atlantic contribution to British marine insurance’ in above.

- Co-editor (with Neal, Larry and Coffman, D’Maris): Questioning Credible Commitment: Perspectives on the Glorious Revolution and the Rise of Financial Capitalism. Cambridge University Press (2013).

- ‘Contingent commitment: the development of English marine insurance in the context of New Institutional Economics, 1577-1720’, in above.

- ‘Underwriting Marine Warfare: Insurance and Conflict in the Eighteenth Century’, International Journal of Maritime History, (December 2013).

- ‘Underwriting British trade to India/China, 1780-1835’, Historical Journal, Vol. 55, 4 (2012). Available here: Copyright resides with Cambridge University Press. Visit the journal on-line here:

- ‘The Trouble with Deposit Insurance’, History & Policy, February 2013. Have a read of it here:

- ‘Navigating the choppy waters of risk’, University of Cambridge research web site,

Other Publications

- ‘Reinsurance Issues in the Baltic Countries', in Insurance in the Baltic Countries, Paris: OECD, 2004, ISBN 9789264021075.

- Asbestos: the Relentless Peril, London: Informa Professional, 2003, ISBN 1843112841.

- Asbestos: Past and Future Impacts, London: Informa Professional, 2001, ISBN 1843111411.

- Insurance in the Baltic States, Loughton: Insurance Research & Publishing, 2000, ISBN 095361882X.

- Strategic analysis of UK non-life insurance, (co-author), London: Financial Times Finance, 1997, ISBN 1853347511.

- Insurance in the EU, Switzerland & Norway (contributor), London: Financial Times Finance, 1996, ISBN 1853345512.