Origins of insurance


Insurance – where did it all begin?

It is thought the earliest form of insurance was illustrated by merchants on the Yangtze River splitting loads between various vessels so that if there was a loss of a single vessel, the whole consignment would not perish. This was 3,000 years ago.

Insurance contracts (the payment of premiums to insure against loss of goods) were first introduced by the merchants of Genoa in the 14th century and before long each voyage was assessed for risk and based among other factors on destination and season of departure.

Insurance against fire became very popular following the Great Fire of London in 1666 (Lloyd’s of London opened around this time in 1688). Insurance companies would deploy their own fire brigades to tackle fires in their insured buildings.  Properties would display a special plaque bearing the sign of the insurer and identifying the building as one of their risks. In England there are still buildings bearing these fire marks.

Insurance has come a long way but there is still the principle that a pool of investment is formed by all contributing to cover the losses of the few.

Insurance in the last 50 years

The policies and covers and the insurers have all developed as the market has needed new and more sophisticated solutions. Even in the 1960s and 1970s there were insurers that specialised in one form of cover only; maybe Plate Glass, Money, Goods in Transit or Loss of Keys. Then it was likely that you carried different policies from many different offices, each covering you for a different peril.

Nowadays it is much more likely that most of a business’s insurance will be covered under one policy with a single insurer. Despite this packaging however, the business owner still needs to make sure they choose the right covers that are required for their business.