The history of insurance in enmeshed in the history of Western society's development. The industrial revolution and the growth that accompanied it depended greatly on capitalmoney that would be risked for the profit that it offered. For those bold enough to take that risk, insurance provided a guarantee that all would not be lost through error or bad judgment.
Early merchants in Italy and England, who financed voyages, knew quite well the dangers that their ships would face. Pirates, bad weather or poor navigation were all threats to their investments. An early form of marine insurance was created in Italy to counter these threats.
In 1063, merchants introduced what became known as the Amalfi Sea Code, under which any merchant whose ship was lost at sea was reimbursed from a pool of money to which all members contributed.
It was however during the late seventeenth century, as London began to grow in importance as a centre for trade, the demand for more sophisticated marine insurance also grew.
In the late 1680s, Mr. Edward Lloyd opened a coffee shop which became a popular haunt of ship owners, merchants and ships' captains. It became a meeting place for parties wishing to insure ships and their cargoes, and those willing to underwrite such ventures. All these activities meant that businessmen and merchants were free to broaden their scope, even to finance several ships, secure in the knowledge that one tragedy at sea would not wipe them out.
While marine insurance played what is considered the pioneering role, insurance as we know it today can be traced to the Great Fire of London in 1666. The conflagration devoured 13,000 houses and 100 churches. In the aftermath of the disaster, a new city of brick and stone grew and so too did the demand for greater coverage.
The foundations of insurance are sound. The sharing of risk ensured that economic growth was able to continue after any tragedy whether at sea or otherwise. The insurance industry can look back with pride at a colorful history and an enormously promising future. Insurance will always be needed.
THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY TODAY
The insurance industry today is indispensable to society. Nothing happens without insurance. A football game, a factory opening, a concert, a car purchase, insurance is a corner stone of our lives and economy. The principle of insurance is that the losses of a few are borne by the contributions of many.
Apart from health insurance, there are two mainstreams of insurance in society
- General Insurance which provides cover for personal lines including home and contents, property, motor, travel, workmen's compensation etc.
- Life Insurance which plays an integral part in the financial services industry. Life insurance provides customers with risk and investment components, death/disability insurance, income protection insurance, etc.
There are a number of industry players that support these streams including:
- Insurance brokers
- Loss Adjusters