oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - The law and customs of marine insurance in Antwerp and London at the end of the sixteenth century : preliminary thoughts on the background to and some of the sources for a comparative investigation

Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



It is well known that by the end of the sixteenth century insurance contracts were regularly concluded in both Antwerp and London. Fuelled not only by a growth in overseas trade, but also by the speculative possibilities that the underwriting of marine risks offered capitalist merchants, the practice of marine insurance in particular expanded rapidly in the course of that century.

As far as insurance was concerned, the two cities shared many common features: the Mediterranean origin of the insurance techniques practised there, at first by foreign merchants; the role of their respective bourses as centres for the transaction of insurance contracts; the existence, in an attempt to counter fraudulent practices, of a formal requirement of insurance policy registration in an official insurance office, and, coupled with that, the rudiments of insurance-specific dispute resolution. For present purposes, though, I wish to focus on another common feature: attempts in both cities to set the general customs and rules of insurance down in writing.

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