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SESSION 05. New Approaches to the History of Insurance Law

5. New Approaches to the History of Insurance Law.

Phillip Hellwege (Universität Augsburg). phillip.hellwege@jura.uni-augsburg.de

ABSTRACT

Modern scholars of insurance law refer to insurance as a legal product. In a contract of sale, for example, the parties exchange goods against money. By contrast, in an insurance transaction the parties exchange money against money: the insurer receives the premiums from the policy holder and in turn promises to pay the insured sum when a certain risk eventuates. The right of the insured to the insured sum is determined in the contract, a legal document, and the boundaries of what the parties can agree upon are set by the law. Against this background, it comes as a surprise that research in the history of insurance has been dominated by economic historians and that within the domain of legal history the history of insurance law has hitherto played only a marginal role. And were research into the history of insurance law exists it is (as traditional research in legal history tends to be) confined to the boundaries of a given jurisdiction. As a consequence, different national narratives have developed. The development of such national narratives is highly problematic. Only recently, legal historians have rediscovered the field of the history of insurance law as a field of study. However, research into the history of insurance law faces a number of challenges. (1) It is an interdisciplinary field of study. Without a firm knowledge of the history of the socio-economic background and without a thorough understanding of insurance markets an analysis of legal questions is impossible. (2) Nevertheless, legal historians have to define their research object independently of other disciplines. Lawyers of all times tend to transpose known solutions to new problems. For the understanding where legal rules in insurance law originated from, legal historians, thus, have to look beyond the sphere of insurance. (3) Finally, insurance practice often has not left any traces in the legal discourse, in legislation or in the case law. And where it has legal historians do not always appreciate that insurance practice may have followed different paths.

The session will have four presentations of 20 minutes each, followed by a discussion. The Organiser invites submissions which challenge, and go beyond, the traditional narratives of insurance legal history without restricting them to any specific field or time frame. Submissions related to, for example, marine insurance, fire insurance, life insurance, guild welfare or state run insurance schemes, to name just some, and covering any legal question will be considered.

 

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