The Pierre du Bois Prize 2021 – Geoffroy Legentilhomme

The recipient of the Pierre du Bois Prize 2021, awarded annually for the best doctoral thesis in International History defended at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, was Dr Geoffroy Legentilhomme.

Dr Geoffroy Legentilhomme received the Pierre du Bois Prize on 17 September for his thesis “Mutualisme, concurrence et science actuarielle: Contributions à l’historiographie du système suisse d’assurance-maladie (1865-1970)”.

This dissertation explores the long-term development of the Swiss health insurance system, from the mid-19th century to the 1970s. Departing from the State-centred and cultural approaches dominant in the historiography of social insurance, it adopts the analytical tools of business history to study the process through which the activity consisting in offering protection against the risks associated with illness evolved over time. Based on the exploration of the archives of both non-profit mutuals and life insurance companies, this dissertation shows how the early, locally organized and managed mutual aid organizations, progressively broadened their scope and severed the ties they had throughout the 19th century maintained with the working class, in order to cater to an ever-growing middle-class market. This process, which was accompanied and fostered by profound organizational transformations at the firm-level and by the importation, in the world of mutual aid, of managerial and commercial technics originating in the realm of for-profit life insurance, lead to the emergence after the Second World War of health insurance as a product of mass-consumption.

This dissertation would not have been possible without the support and guidance of its directors, Professor Carolyn Biltoft and Professor Marc Flandreau.

Dr Geoffroy Legentilhomme is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich. In 2019-2020, he was an FNS Doc.Mobility visiting fellow at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.