SESSION 10. Risk Management and Insurance practices in the Modern and Contemporary Ages

10. Risk Management and Insurance practices in the Modern and Contemporary Ages.

Amedeo Lepore (Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli). amedeo.lepore2@unicampania.it
Serena Potito (Università degli Studi di Napoli Parthenope). serena.potito@uniparthenope.it
Potito Quercia (Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro). potito.quercia@uniba.it

Paper 1

The risk economy and the dimension of uncertainty: forms of sharing and investment opportunities in the modern and contemporary age.

Amedeo Lepore (Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli)
Potito Quercia (Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro)

The contribution to be proposed to the Scientific Committee of the next International Conference about Risk and the Insurance Business in History, wants to deepen two aspects of the insurance environment: the risk economy and the purposes of participation in the market of insurance policies by individuals or companies. The analysis will be conducted both with reference to the period in which the insurance contract was stipulated between individual economic subjects (late medieval and early modern age), and to the next phase which, on the other hand, sees the birth and the emergence of insurance companies and the expansion of the insurance offer. The survey covers the main insurance markets in the Mediterranean area, in particular those operating in Italy. In essence, the contribution aims to demonstrate, with empirical research, how the insurance has represented, depending on the historical phases and the type of organization of the market, an indispensable tool for sharing the risk in front of the irresolution of economic events, but also an attractive operation of capital investment.

The essay is divided in three parts. The first analyzes the character and the socio-economic implications of risk, its evolution over the long term and the close correlation between uncertainty, insurance practices, phases of expansion and development of the economy. In the second part, on the other hand, the goal is to deepen, through the use of unpublished archive sources and the critical analysis of the research conducted to date, the study of the different purposes and the multiple forms of participation in the insurance deal by individuals or groups of insurers. To this end, with regard to the early modern age, we will proceed to analyze for some areas the individual positions of insured and insurers and, more generally, of the socio-economic components of the insurance policy market. In the third part, the analysis on risk sharing and insurance investments is developed with reference to the contemporary age, addressing important issues in the mutual insurance companies and the various Italian companies in the sector in question, up to the involvement of the State in safeguarding the economic interests of the various social partners, expanding the concept of social security and, at the same time, increasing the importance of its central role as an investor in the Italian economy. In particular, with regard to the forms of risk sharing, it will be possible to understand how some mercantile communities in modern age, thanks to the involvement of the various components of the economic and civil system, have adopted innovative measures designed to counteract situations of extreme criticality, reflecting strategic socialization phenomena. We will also try to investigate the extent to which the participation of the various socio-professional groups in the insurance market has led to various types of associations, aimed at countering obstacles to the regular progress of business activities and trades.

With regard to the investment opportunities that the policy market offers to private individuals or companies, the contribution goes in two directions, depending on the type of organization on which the market was founded. Until the conclusion of the contract involved one or more individual insurers, and the insurance forms have affected almost exclusively maritime transport, the investment was considered as an alternative form of invested capital, or as a reason for co-participation aimed at countering the risks by sea. When, however, the organization and management of the insurance sector evolved, the analysis of investments concerned, first, the social structure and, secondly, the investments of the insurance companies aimed at creating reserves necessary to guarantee, especially in the life business, the financial commitments assumed in the contract.


Paper 2

The Compañía Española de Seguros (CES). Organization and activity of a Spanish insurance company in the Cádiz market (1754-1768).

Guadalupe Carrasco-González (Universidad de Cádiz)

In the mid-18th century, foreign business companies and particularly French companies dominated the insurance market in Cádiz. In 1754 the Spanish Company of Insurance is established in Cadiz, a company by shares, financed by fourteen partners, all of Basque-Navarre origin, with a capital of 400,000 pesos and dedicated to the contracting of insurance and maritime risks. The company maintained its insurance activity, at least until 1768, under the direction of the Aguado brothers. My research proposal aims to analyze the evolution of the company through the contracts of constitution of the companies recorded by the notaries (1754, 1758, 1763 and 1768) and comparing their organization with the insurance companies that arose years later, at the end of the XVIII.

Likewise, an attempt will be made to identify the shareholders, investigating their socio-professional activities around the insurance business and comparing their actions with the situation of other participants in the insurance companies at the end of the century. The analysis of the activity of the company will be developed with the collection of different public instruments preserved in the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Cádiz (risks, powers of attorney, letters of payment, abandonments …) where we can find references to risks and insurances contracted by the company and its different types (maritime, bet and life).

The study of this company will help to advance the date in which insurance companies specialized in the Cadiz and Spanish market appear during the 18th century.
The chronology is subject to revision as I continue to look for more documentation about the company and about the shareholders.


Paper 3

The ‘Avería’ in the Carrera de Indias: an indicator of the maritime risk in the Atlantic trade (XVIth-XVIIth Centuries).

Sergio Sardone (Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”)

Due to the growth of the commercial traffic between Spain and the New World and, above all, to the huge gold and silver remittances from the Indies, the risk of Atlantic trade grew significantly during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly through the incursions of pirates and corsairs from France, England and the Netherlands.

In order to face this specific risk, armed fleets became essential in the first years of the sixteenth century, as they provided an escort service first on the arrival route of the ships of America and, later, even on departures from Spain to the New World. All the costs of these fleets used for the protection of the Carrera de Indias’ convoys, or the route of the Spanish colonial trade, formed part of the so-called “avería”: a contribution proportionally distributed among the various owners of goods and remittances and in reason of the remittances value transported on the ships. The distribution of the avería, which according to Céspedes del Castillo represented “a form of insurance against the specific risk of piracy”, was initially entrusted to the commissions formed by public officials and representatives of merchants, being then attributed to a receiver (repector) landlord, forming later, mostly during the seventeenth century, one of the main tasks of the Consulate of the merchants of Seville.

The avería rate, expressed as a percentage, would represent a great indicator of risk in the Atlantic trade, especially considering the flows of the remittances – public and private – of the American precious metals. These resources represented the main object of desire of European sovereigns, due to the ever more relevant use that these resources had in the financial and military policy of the sovereigns of Castile.

The first studies about the “avería” of the Carrera de Indias were published, almost in the midtwentieth century, by Zumalacárregui and Céspedes del Castillo, authors of two articles that were focused on the state of the matter and analyzed the organizational and legal aspects of this contribution. In particular, Céspedes del Castillo provided to the historiography the first important data, even if quite fragmented, about the avería rate which was charged for dividing all costs related to the protection of the fleets of the Carrera de Indias. Later, Otte and Martin Acosta had stimulated the interest of the historians offering concrete studies on the collections of the avería in two different moments, like the years 1507 and 1602.

More recently, Del Vas Mingo and Navarro Azcue have returned to the argument, contributing to significant approaches about the maritime risk, while Luque Talaván has focused mainly on the etymology of the word “avería”. However, until today the two studies that have offered more continuity of data to the historiography are those less recents, such as the French historian, Pierre Chaunu (with his wife Huguette), and the Spanish Eufemio Lorenzo Sanz, who have tried to offer a realistic idea on the incidence of these costs in the system of American remittances.
The first objective of this paper is to offer a medium-term approach of the avería rates of the Carrera de Indias: starting from the 1520s and until the middle of the seventeenth century. Specifically, this study aims to collect, correct and integrate some of the quantitative data on the aforementioned avería rate, adding also unpublished data and revising partially erroneous values for a part of the historiography. This analysis is based, in particular, on the systematic tracking of some of the unused Proposal by Sergio SARDONE – Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II” or not completely exploited sources by the main scholars who have analyzed this issue: the notarial protocols and the treasury books of the Casa de la Contratación and the Consulate of Seville, which will complement those already mentioned by Chaunu and more by Lorenzo Sanz and Céspedes del Castillo.

The study also has the ambition to fill an information gap that refers particularly to the reign of Carlos I (1516-1556), a time of the least investigated by the specialists of the avería, due to the few and intermittent data collected and to the limitation of the available records, being the main documentary series of the receptores de avería -exploited yet by Chaunu- available only from the second half of the sixteenth century. Another object of the study is offer an acceptable indication of the maritime risk in the Carrera de Indias, which is pursued through a weighting of the damage rate with the value of the remittances received in Seville. In this way, the failure rate would be refined from a distorting element such as the entity of the precious metals brought from America, which suffered significant fluctuations according to the time considered.

Finally, it will be focused the most critical moments of the period considered, offering, in the limit of the possible, the negative and economic impacts of the corsair attacks suffered by the convoys of the Carrera de Indias.

Bibliography cited

  • CÉSPEDES DEL CASTILLO, La avería en la Carrera de Indias, Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, Sevilla, 1945, artículo publicado también en el Anuario de Estudios Americanos, 2 (1945)
  • DEL VAS MINGO y NAVARRO AZCUE: “El riesgo en el transpone marítimo del siglo XVI”, Congreso de Historia del Descubrimiento (1492-1556), (Madrid, 1991), Real Academia de la Historia -Confederación Española de Cajas de Ahorro, Madrid, 1992, Tomo III, pp. 579-614, y 1996-1997, pp.429-442
  • LORENZO SANZ, Comercio de España con América en la época de Felipe II, Valladolid 1979-1980 (2 vol.)
  • LUQUE TALAVÁN, “La avería en el tráfico marítimo-mercantil indiano: notas para su estudio”, Revista Complutense de Historia de América, 24 (1998), pp. 113-145
  • MARTÍN ACOSTA, “Estado de la cuestión sobre la avería en la Historiografía española y americanista, la Avería en 1602”, Revista de Indias, 188 (1990), pp. 151-160
  • OTTE, “Empresarios genoveses y españoles en el comercio transatlántico: la avería de 1507”, Revista de Indias, 93-94 (1963) pp. 519-530
  • ZUMALACÁRREGUI, “Contribución al estudio de la Avería en el siglo XVI y principios del XVII”, Madrid, 1945, artículo publicado también en Revista Anales de Economía, 16 (1945).


Paper 4

The sharing of risk in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century: the intervention of the State in life insurance.

Serena Potito (Università Parthenope, Napoli).

The contribution is linked to the analysis conducted on the concept of risk economy on the Italian territory, shifting the attention to the period of the contemporary age, in particular to the first two decades of the twentieth century, during the liberal age. In particular, in addition to the need to share the risk, insurance investments led to an important development of mutual insurance companies and various Italian companies in the sector in question, up to the involvement of the State in safeguarding the interests of the various social partners, expanding the social security concept and, at the same time, in increasing the importance of its central role as an investor in the Italian economy. In fact, life insurance – through the creation of INA (1912), a national institute that held for about a decade its activity in a monopoly regime – represented the first sector in which the expansion of the presence of the Italian state began in many areas of society, finance and industry, applying in a concrete way those lines of economic policy that would later characterized several decades of the twentieth century..