Fire and life insurance in the Dutch Republic: Development and legal aspects

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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This study revisits the prevailing claim made by Van Niekerk that in the Netherlands fire and life insurance are an offspring of marine insurance. It focusses on the Northern Netherlands between roughly 1581 and 1795. Insurance emerged in the Netherlands in the late sixteenth century. Its most prevalent form was premium marine insurance, which was extensively regulated by the authorities and mostly discussed by legal scholars. Yet fire insurance occurred also, in the form of mutual fire insurance schemes, wherein parties involved are simultaneously insurer and insured. Chapter 2 covers the history of fire insurance law. It deals with the general emergence and spread of fire insurance schemes in the Dutch Republic and embeds the history of fire insurance law in its socio-economic and historical background. It analyzes the oldest instances of premium fire insurance, which date back to 1646 and 1663, both in the city of Rotterdam and both in the form of insurance contracts between private parties. The influence of marine insurance was marginal. The oldest known mutual fire insurances date back to 1663, yet here contracted between oil-millers in the Zaanstreek (near Amsterdam). There were more than seventy contracts, and most were designed for the long run. The development of the Zaanstreek contracts can be divided into three stages. With each stage, their legal characteristics developed along. Clauses allowed millers to join or leave the scheme as they pleased. A few mutual fire insurance contracts can be found in Amsterdam and Groningen as well from the 1740s onwards, although the legal characteristics of the Groningen contracts in particular differed from the Zaanstreek contracts. All these mutual fire insurance contracts were legal constructions sui generis and developed independently from marine insurance as well as from the older Hamburg Feuerkontrakte. Premium fire insurance developed further in Rotterdam with the establishment of the Rotterdam Insurance Company in 1720. This particular company was also the first (Dutch) insurer to offer premium fire insurance and issued its own fire insurance policy. In 1744 the Amsterdam authorities introduced their new insurance regulation which included a section on fire insurance and a model fire insurance policy to be used in practice, that were updated in 1775. These Amsterdam model fire insurance policies show a gradual influence from marine insurance. From the 1770s onwards, premium fire insurance companies emerged mostly in Amsterdam, whereas mutual fire insurance companies emerged throughout the Dutch Republic. The influence from marine insurance grew gradually as classic marine insurance clauses were taken over in these later fire insurance policies used in practice. Chapter 3 covers the history of life insurance in the Dutch Republic. Initially premium life insurance appears to have developed as an offspring of marine insurance but its statutory prohibition in 1571 by Philips II stalled its further development. Notwithstanding this prohibition, we find two life insurance policies in Amsterdam, one from 1676 and the other from 1712. These policies differ on many points. A practice of life insurance cannot be established, as it is more likely that these policies were isolated instances. Finally, Chapter 3 considers the Dutch Life Insurance Company of 1807, which is said to mark the beginning of modern life insurance in the Netherlands. At the time of its establishment, life insurance was not yet recognized by statute. Rather than an influence from marine insurance, the life insurance practice by the Dutch Life Insurance Company of 1807 shows influences from foreign life insurance companies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Hallebeek, Jan, Supervisor
  • Hellwege, P., Supervisor, External person
Award date5 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2021


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