Human beings have always tried to ensure their happiness and well-being. Risks put this stability in danger, and so trying to manage unforeseen events was a need that arose quite early on. Specifically, 4,000 years ago. We’re talking about insurance.
According to research, the first insurances date back to Antiquity, namely the Greek, Roman and Babylonian civilizations. Around 3000 B.C., the merchants of Babylon initiated what was called ‘bottomry’, in which they all came together to bear the possible losses and misfortunes that any of them may suffer during their business trips around the country.
Later, circa 1750 B.C., the king of Babylon Hammurabi would legalise this practice in one of the oldest sets of laws that have ever been found, the Hammurabi Code. It includes the first antecedents of current insurance policies that established cover for sunken ships, dead or stolen animals, and goods. It was a security based on community and on the union of all traders. It even envisaged compensation to cover accidents at work, deaths and pensions procedures, inheritance and widowhood – very similar matters to what present day insurances deal with.
The Greeks also had ‘bottomry’ to protect their maritime voyages. There are indications of the same practices among Chinese merchants too: goods were exchanged between different boats, so that if any one boat suffered a mishap, the losses were shared between them all.
During the Middle Ages, insurance became more detailed due to pressing social and historical needs: the crusades, piracy on the oceans, the guilds… At this time the concept of policies arose, with the oldest preserved contract of maritime insurance that protected the Santa Barbara vessel from 1347.
But the decisive milestone came in 1666, when the Great Fire of London raged in the city for days. The losses were devastating and innumerable, and created the need for a service that would insure against such risks. And so during the following years the first insurance companies began to emerge: Royal Exchange, The London Fire, Guarantee Society, Insurance Company of North America and many more.
All of these historical developments have helped to refine the insurance sector into what it is today: a key guarantee in the operation of industry and business around the world. In recent years, this evolution has gone a step further and given rise to insurtech.
This combination of insurance and technology has come about because of the need for insurance companies to adapt to the new technological environment. Digital solutions and products, startups that have a novel and innovative viewpoint, and customers who expect greater flexibility and immediacy are some of the circumstances that have given rise to this disruption.
At MAPFRE’s insur_space we believe in insurtech, supporting startups related to the world of insurance to help them develop new ideas driven by the best technology. The next evolution in the insurance world is about to arrive, and we want to be part of it.