The first insurance contracts as we know them today appeared between the 12th and 13th centuries in Italy. The Florentine chronicler Giovani Villani asserts that insurance originated in Lombardy in 1182. Modern historians place its birth between 1239 and 1245. It has been shown that insurance was known in Bruges in 1310 and in Genoa in 1329. Middle - Age, premature death thus gave rise to insurance terms that had passed before a notary which prefigured life insurance. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assurance#L'assurance_au_Moyen_%C3%82ge

Did countries use insurance to compensate for their economic losses after the Black Death (1352)? I would be interested to know how they managed to compensate for the economic losses. If the quote is not correct, what other systems that could might look like what is called "insurance" today to offset losses from this pandemic?

So according to the sources and your answers, insurance in the Middle Ages was primarily maritime for trade. And according to this page : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_insurance

except for Germany, health insurance was created for the majority after the 1930s. Would that mean, if we remain in the context of pandemics, that insurance has not had no effect on the Spanish flu too?

If you have any information that deals with the same problem for the Asian Flu (1957), I'm interested.

  • The main question is what percentage of peaple effected were insured. So more details are required. (This question sounds familiar) May 11, 2021 at 7:15
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    I'm not sure where you're quoting this from, but the last sentence is gliding over a lot - insurance contracts of this period were mostly just mercantile shipping insurance - property or life insurance as we know it today wouldn't come until later. May 11, 2021 at 9:46
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    Do countries really ever use insurance (as we understand the term) at all? Would they (or anyone) have had the foresight to insure against a plague? Wouldn't the plague have adversely affected the insurers to a degree that they couldn't possibly have paid off on any insurance policies?
    – jamesqf
    May 11, 2021 at 23:54
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    Plagues, Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes==Act of God. An act of God may amount to an exception to liability in contracts.
    – justCal
    May 12, 2021 at 11:51
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    Some interesting information concerning insurance during the 1918 pandemic can be found in a NAIC pdf here
    – justCal
    May 12, 2021 at 12:16

1 Answer 1


generally, I concur with Andrew's comment about this: life insurance on itself is different from considering death in a clause inside a shipping / commercial insurance contract. It makes sense to specify what happens if a contracting part dies.

But about your own source, wiki cites on reference [11]: https://www.lassuranceenmouvement.com/2021/02/11/lassurance-vie-des-femmes-enceintes-a-genes-en-1427/

First, it is about XV c., after the Black Death, very late middle ages. And, it is mainly about insurance for pregnant women against death due to pregnancy or birth complications. The article also explains that the wider context could be recovering the significant cost of the bride dowry if she dies during birth.

As it is a specific context, your own source does not tell anything about life insurance against disease during the black death.

PS: In some cities in Brazil, some cars are robbed so often that insurance companies just do not insure them. One owns them at his own risk. I doubt any of today's companies would insure against a disease as lethal as the black death was in the middle ages.

  • Actually, health insurance companies will cover treatment for Yersinia pestis infection, and I'm not aware of any life-insurance company with an exclusion for it. It turns out the Black Death is only incredibly lethal if you don't have access to antibiotics.
    – Mark
    May 11, 2021 at 20:19
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    yes, they do it because it does not have the same lethality anymore. Maybe I expressed myself badly, I edited it now
    – Luiz
    May 11, 2021 at 21:55
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    But this applies to insurance policies taken out by individuals or companies. The question asks about COUNTRIES using insurance.
    – jamesqf
    May 12, 2021 at 16:43
  • @jamesqf It is written 'countries' but I assume that he means people or companies, I do not even know if countries could (historically) or can (today) contract insurance over their whole population or on their behalf. So if Mary dies, her country gets $? Gee, I know some politicians who would get rich fast over the bodies of their people...
    – Luiz
    May 12, 2021 at 18:13
  • @Luiz: Then perhaps you also need to ask the OP to clarify? I did, but apparently without effect.
    – jamesqf
    May 13, 2021 at 16:14

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