p-insurance-msg - 8/22/00
Development and use of various forms of insurance in period. Dowry insurance.
NOTE: See also the files: commerce-msg, p-lawyers-msg, p-prices-msg, guilds-msg, p-prices-srcs-art, coins-msg.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: bcfrench at mothra.syr.edu (Barbara C. French)
Subject: Italian Dowry Fund
Organization: Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 93 15:57:15 EST
A couple weeks ago, I posted something about the dowry insurance offered
in Florence in the 15th century. Dorothea of Caer-Myrriden (sp?) asked me
if I got my facts straight on when the fund was unavailable. My answer is:
Yes -- and here's a brief recap and explanation:
The subject: The Monte delli doti (the dowry fund), started in Florence in
about 1424/24. Lasted 100 years (more or less) until the grand doge's
fiscal reforms of the 16th century.
What was it? sort of a cross between dowry insurance and municipal bonds.
The idea started when Florence was in a fiscal pickle and needed money.
They offered to parents of daughters a plan: Invest a sum with the Monte
delli doti (called the Monte for brevity), and in a fixed term (usualy 7.5
or 10 years), you'll get the interest -- usually 2-5 times that of the
original sum -- to be given to the husband of said daughter for her dowry.
This solved 2 problems: city cash flow, and rising dowries no parent short
of the doge could afford.
Terms? The money could not be withdrawn at any time for any reason until
the term was up. The money had to go to the lawful husband of the daughter
for whom the Monte account was created.
So: The daughter had to live to see the end of the term AND had to be
legally married (ie. in a consummated marriage) at the time of maturity.
If she did not marry by the end of the term, the Monte account could be
held and used at a later time. But the money could only be withdrawn and
given to her legal husband. This was NOT a money-market account for Dad.
If she died before marriage, the Monte account reverted to the City of
Florence -- original investment, interest and all.
If the girl entered a convent and took religious vows, the Monte account
reverted to the City of Florence -- original investment, interest and all.
In Florence at that time, many of the girls of marriageable age who
entered the convent were thought to be unmarriageable.
The article I got this information from was interesting, because it showed
that many of the families who got into the Monte during the first years
falsified their young daughters' ages. If they had a ten-year term and
their daughter was ten, it meant that she could not get the money -- and
thus secure a marriage contract -- until she was twenty; in most upper
class families in Florence, this was nigh onto spinsterhood (most women
married between 13 and 17). So when they registered with the Monte, they
pushed back daughters' ages a few years to get them to a "marriageable" age.
They found this out by comparing tax roll information (Florentine census)
with the Monte records. They were able to compare about 970 records this way.
If anyone's interested in reading the article I got this information from,
the author is Anthony Mohlo, and the article "Deception and Marriage
Strategy" is the first article in the Summer 1988 _Renaissance Quarterly_.
Caitrin Gordon, Delftwood, Aethelmearc
bcfrench at mailbox.syr.edu
From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)
Subject: Re: Italian Dowry Fund
Date: 8 Nov 1993 04:22:53 GMT
Organization: University of California, Berkeley
Barbara C. French <bcfrench at mothra.syr.edu> wrote:
>A couple weeks ago, I posted something about the dowry insurance offered
>in Florence in the 15th century. Dorothea of Caer-Myrriden (sp?) asked me
>if I got my facts straight on when the fund was unavailable. My answer is:
>Yes -- and here's a brief recap and explanation:
[nice clear explanation deleted to save bandwidth]
How very interesting. As you said, the City would _not_ pay a dowry
if the investor's daughter went into the convent. There was probably
some perfectly sound economic, not religious, reason.
There's a bit of dialogue from Fry's _The Lady's Not for Burning_
that seems to apply (quoted from memory, so don't nit-pick me):
"I am quite usual, with five elder sisters. My father thought
he'd never be able to find husbands for us all, so he decided to
simplify things by letting me marry God. He gave me to a convent."
"What kind of showing did he think he would make as God's father-
"He let his beard grow longer. But then he found that husbands fell
into my sisters' laps. So he stopped thinking of God as eligible--
no prospects, he thought. So he looked around and found me Humphrey
Devize. Do you think he'll do?"
"Probably. He isn't God, of course."
Dorothea of Caer-Myrddin Dorothy J. Heydt
Mists/Mists/West UC Berkeley
Argent, a cross forme'e sable djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu
Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 00:09:03 MST
From: "Katharine Whitchurch" <katts at globalfreeway.com.au>
Subject: Period Insurance
To: "Mark.S Harris (rsve60)" <mark.s.harris at motorola.com>
This is Anton - I sent you some stuff about Period Price Sources. I'm on a
couple of days off work, so I decided that it was time to go deep into the
bowels of the Australian National University's library and do stuff on
Boy, did I hit paydirt. I believe I was the first person ever to open their
copy of Stefani's "Insurance in Venice from the origins to the end of the
Serenissima : Documents published for the 125th anniversary of the company"
(SPA Polografica, Bologna, 1958) since they got given it by the
Assicurazioni Generali di Trieste e Venzezia in 1960 ... my Italian is bad,
but I think it's the General Insurance Company of Trieste and Venice. And
can I tell you, when I am buying insurance, I am going to look them up.
A beautiful folio-size work, with 200 pages on the history of insurance in
Venice, and then 120 pages worth of transcriptions of primary sources (with
references), complete with English summaries of the Latin or Italian. There
is also part two, which is of similar quality, but it deals with 17th and
18th century stuff.
It isnt just insurance, either ... I present to you the Latin of a Seante
decree of 22 June 1419, concerning a ban on betting on the Pope's life
Now, my Latin is worse than my Italian, but I figured you'd know someone who
can translate it for me.
Proposers : ser Andrea Justiano Consilarius - ser Antonius Contareno
procurator - ser Franciscius Foscari procurator - sapienties consilij
Cum per nostrus in Rivoalto fiant multi securiates super persona Pape, quod
est male factum et si perverenerit ad arues dicti domine Pape, credendum est
quod renameret male contentus, et bonun sit ad hoc obviare. Vadit pares quod
omnes securiates facte revocentur, et nullius sint valoris, et teneantur
omnes qui recepissent denarios talium securitatum illos restiteuere, sub
pena tantum quem quod abuissent. Et teneantur omes missiete, omnes
securitates de quibus fuissent missete manifestare nostris provisoribus
comunis, ut dictos denarios restituere faciant illis qui dictos denarios
exbursassent, sub pena dictis missetis standi uno mense in uno carcerorum
inferiorum, et non possit decetero aliquis noster civis, subditius vel
habitator Venitiaium aliquam securitatem facere sub persona domini Pape sub
pena amittendi tantam quantitatem denariorum pro quanta fecerit securitate,
quam penam exigant provisores habentes partem ut de alijs penis sui officij
et qui decetero fuerit misseta talium securitatum, stare debeat sex menses
in uno cacerorum inferiorum, et debeant provisores mittere pro misstis, et
eis notam facere partem suprascriptam.
de parte 101
de non 6
non sinceri 0
(Senato Misiti Ro 52, c 180)
As far as I can tell, this bit of legislation passed 101 to 6.
I wonder who the six were ...
Stefanni also notes on p88 "the custom of betting on the lives of eminent
polititians, churchmen and civil dignitaries, on the issue of election of
soveriegns and on other circumstances concerning these men. This kind of
betting was already widespread in Spain during the first decades of the 15th
century. The custom was soon picked up and followed by numerous individuals
in Italy, Venice not included, A decree of the Senate of 22nd June 1419
<typed in above> remarked that <<multe securitates>> were entered into at
Rialto on the Pontiff's life, at that time Martin V. <<Si perceneriet ad
aures dicti domini Pape, credendum
est quod remaneret male contentus>>. It became advisable to stop this bad
habit, hence the Senate forbade, under the threat of severe punishments, to
carry on such bettings and ordered those already made to be cancelled. As we
may notice, the prohibition was merely partial and only limited to the
Another example of "if you cant document it, you arent trying hard enough" -
I used to take bets on the Lochac Coronet tournament :) The other bit of
Lochac history is the infamous bet on a certain fighter (it may have been
the now-Sir Kurgan) surviving to the end of all the wars at a Rowany
Festival. It stood to pay about two hundred dollars, and in the final war
Kurgan was put deep in the middle of a large unit.
I still think if Murgatroyd Maccuram (who was the original bookmaker) had
offered a chunk of that, one of Kurgan's own side would have clocked him.
Good to see that could be documented as well :)
OK, back to actual insurance ... although the dividing line between
insurance and a bet is pretty vague.
Maritime insurance originated from 'bottomry' loans, which differed from
normal commercial lending in that the interest rate was higher, and if the
ship did not return due to misfortune, then the loan was not repaid.
To quote Stefani (p44 of "Insurance in Venice from the origins to the end of
the Serenissima : Documents published for the 125th anniversary of the
company" ; SPA Polografica, Bologna, 1958)
"This loan on bottomry was practiced as follows : the loaner, who also often
owned the ship i.e the capitalist (dominus negotii, procertans, commendator)
who usually remained on land, loaned capital to a person undertaking a
voyage as a shipowner on his own account or on someone else's ship. When the
ship reyurned safely to the port of departure (sans navi redeunte) the
capital was reimbursed by the borrower (tractator, procerator,
accomendatarius) together with a profitable interest. If the ship was lost
owing to misfortune, such as storm or piracy (periculum maris et gentis),
the capital was not reimbursed".
Stefani cites, but unfortunately does not quote, a number of 12th century
He dates actual insurance to "23rd October 1347 whereby Giorgio Leccavello
insures Bartolomeo Basso for the sum of 107 Genoese lire on a cocca named S.
Clara for a voyage from Genoa to Majorca within the term of six months"
(Stefani, Insurance in Venice from the orgigins to the end of the
Serenessima, SpA Polographica, Bologna 1958 ; p60, citing Bensa "Il
He also quotes in full (p60) an insurance contract from 1384 which I quote
here in full ;
"The aforesaid insurers run any risk from said place to said place and for
the said goods bearing said name and sign and for said estimated value and
loaded on the said ship [and run every risk] of God and of sea and any kind
of peril and accidents and heavy weather and disasters that may in any way
happen, and should the casualty occur as it is required and according to the
conditions [of the contract, all insurers carry and run the [risks] in
favour of the said Francesvo and partners [for] florins one and one third
percent. And if any kind of disaster should happen to the items - may God
forbid - the said insurers promise and engage themselves to give and to pay
actually and with no objections or to place and have placed [at disposal] in
any way or means [in favour] of the said Francesco and partners, or their
agents and trustees within the first two months following the day when the
casualty shall have been notified to the said insurers, each [insurer shall
pay] the at quantity of moneys that they insure at Pisa, at Florence, at
Siena, at Genoa or in any other place, land or locality the said Francesco
and partners may wish to have them sent to, save that if the payment should
be effected outside of Pisa no advantage of money exchange can be requested
from the insurers ; and should it happen that as a concequence of the
casualty that may happen [at their charge] the insurers repurchase or redeem
the said items, they may present them sound and safe at Savona to the said
Francessco and partners or anyone entrusted by them and mentioned in the
writ, within three months following the day on which the casualty may have
happened" (citing Cianelli "Sulle orme di un primato - Il testo della piu
antica polizza toscana di assicurazione" ; Bollettino delle Assicurzaioni
Generali, Feb-Mar 1955).
Not merely marine insurance but marine re-insurance was practiced in
fourteenth century Italy - a Genoese document dated 12 July 1370 has
Giovanni Sacco insured by Giuliano Grillo for a voyage from Genoa to
Flanders, and Grillo reinsuring the dangerous part of the voyage from Cadiz
to Biscay with Goffredo di Bonavia and Martino Maruffo to a sum equal to
that he had promised Sacco (p61 of Stefani, citing p200 of Bensa "Il
Stefani cites typical premiums for fourteenth century Italy as being 5-19%
(p61) for maritime insurance, and about half that for cargos going by land
The first recorded insurance com;any was a 1424 partership in Genoa of
Galeotto and Tobia de' Scipioni with Giulano Dondi, which split the damages
and profits three ways (p62, citing Bensa op cit p221).
Life insurance policies are recorded as being issued in Venice in 1589, with
Stefani (p119) citing Ventian State Archives records for a policy being
issued on 13 November 1589 with seven insurers insuring the life of a
debtor, Augustin Bofino, to his creditor, Gieronimo Quarto, to the sum of
six hundred ducats. As it was, Bonifo died on the 13th of January 1590, and
the sum was paid to Quarto. One can only hope that foul play was not
involved (cf the sad case of another Geronimo, Geronimo de Curiel, Phillip
II's Factor at the Antwerp Fairs, who was stabbed to death in October 1570
just before he was due to give evidence about official corruption involving
Francisco di Lixalde, the Paymaster of the Army of Flanders, and Juan de
Albornoz, the Secretary of that army's commander, the Duke of Alva.
The charges against di Lixalde and de Albornoz were then dropped. Despite
thirty five (!) years work by a team of auditors on his books after
Lixalde's sudden death in 1577, the corruption investigation was
stopped in 1612 exchange for 13 000 ducats in cash. Parker strongly
indicates that di Lixalde was skimming the entire deduction made
from soldiers pay for the upkeep of military hospitals. See ch 8 of Geoffrey
Parker "Spain and the Netherlands 1559-1659" ; Collins, 1979).
Anton de Stoc
mka Ian Whitchurch
(c) Ian Whitchurch, 2000. Permission granted to reproduce for not-for-profit
purposes, provided that the work is properly attributed.
PS: Ian is looking for a transcription, preferably tranlated to English, of a Bill of Exchange. He says "Believe it or not, I just cant find one - despite all the references to them being essentially built on one standard pattern.".