Session 15/16: Going Global? Marine Insurance and the Limits of Early Modern Globalization

Friday, July 22th 2022, 09:00–13:30 (CEST), Room U1, 197

Zoom-Link: | Meeting ID: 619 4439 6722

Session Organisers: Mallory Hope (Yale University), Antonio Iodice (University of Exeter/Università di Genova), Lewis Wade (University of Exeter)


Marine insurance has long been recognized as a crucial innovation in pre-modern commerce, allowing merchants and shipmasters to shift the natural and anthropogenic risks of voyages onto third parties. Yet its role in the growth of early modern global trade has rarely been explored in empirical terms. Following Jan de Vries’ lead, our panel will consider marine insurance’s role in facilitating “soft” globalization, i.e. transcontinental trading connections that left lasting impressions on society (for good or ill). Drawing on sources from Genoa, Paris and French coastal cities and on original data series, we trace the role of marine insurance in facilitating the growth of trans-imperial Atlantic trade, while also articulating the Mediterranean’s continued vitality as an integral element of global commodity chains. The papers in our session especially treat two important problems: first, we consider why marine insurance was not used for all types of voyage, shedding light on the instrument’s limitations in the face of perilous, distant and restricted markets. Second, we explore how insurance law and underwriting strategies were adapted according to operators’ needs as commercial networks expanded. Genoa continued to boast a traditional, reciprocal model of risk sharing – market players often served simultaneously as underwriters and as insured parties. By contrast, the rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade saw Europeans modify and stretch the bounds of the insurance contract to fit the risk profile of a more globalized slave trade, transplanting "captive" insurance from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. In conclusion, we propose that marine insurance serves as a valuable bellwether of globalization and its limits in the early modern world.

    1. Moral hazard in extremis: Slave jettison and its indemnification in the Mediterranean and Atlantic

    • Jake Dyble, Department of History, University of Exeter

    2. Navigating the History of Marine Insurance and Slavery

    • Benjamin Wiggins, Department of History, University of Minnesota

    3. The Ransom of Black Lives: Insurance and Slave Trading in the French Empire, 1681- 1794

    • Mallory Hope, Department of History, Yale University

    4. One Clucked, Another Mooed, the Third Cried Taxawal!: The Development of Maritime Insurance from Slavery to Agriculture, 1710-1930s

    • Fredrick Hardyway, Department of History, Washington State University

    5. Marine Insurance in Early Modern Genoa (1564-1571): A Risk-Shifting or Risk-Sharing Tool?

    • Antonio Iodice, Department of Economics, University of Genoa/ Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, University of Exeter

    6. A rue with a View: Marine Insurance and Globalization in Early Modern Paris

    • Lewis Wade, Department of History, University of Exeter