Session 5: The Many Meanings of Mutuality in Insurance History

Wednesday, July 20th 2022, 17:00–19:00 (CEST), Room U1, 191

Zoom-Link: | Meeting ID: 630 7978 7589

Session Organisers Phillip Hellwege, University of Augsburg,


To modern insurance scholars, the principle of mutuality is well defined: a mutual insurance company is owned by its policyholders: the entirety of the insured are at the same time the insurer. Consequently, policyholders have rights in the running of the insurance, and any surplus earned will benefit them in their role as owners of the enterprise. By contrast, a stock insurance company is owned by investors who are not necessarily at the same time policyholders. It follows that policyholders do not have any rights in the running of the insurance, and any surplus will benefit the investors. Turning to insurance history scholarship, the concept of mutuality is equally important to describe insurance schemes of the past. Yet there is less clarity as to the exact meaning of the concept of mutuality. It seems that it is used in the different national historiographies with different meanings. These different uses of the concept of mutuality in modern historical writing reflect the many variances in how the principle of mutuality has been implemented in history. The session wants to explore the many meanings of mutuality in insurance history by bringing together scholars from different countries and covering different times. It is hoped that the different papers will provide a detailed analysis how the principle has been implemented, also taking into consideration the different socio-economic and legal settings in which mutual insurance schemes developed. The session will have presentations of 20 minutes each, followed by a discussion.

1. The Principle of Mutuality in Fire and Marine Insurances in the Dutch Republic

  • Delphine Sirks, Faculty of Law, VU Amsterdam

2. Artisan Apprenticeship Contracts as a Life Insurance in the Hispanic Monarchy during the Early Modern Ages

  • Jose Antolín Nieto Sánchez, Modern History, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • Mar Hernández Escudero, independent scholar

3. Traditional Communal Strategies for Insurance and Risk Prevention in Africa: A Narrative of the Communal Contributory Club Model of the Yoruba and Igbo Ethnic Groups in Nigeria

  • Israel Saibu, History and Diplomatic Studies, Anchor University (online)