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Highlights on Reinsurance History

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Edited By André Straus and Leonardo Caruana de las Cagigas

    Despite being one of the main pillars of the insurance industry, reinsurance is little known by the general public and is rarely the focus of academic study. In this book, the authors – economic historians and experts in the field from across Europe and Japan – seek to address this by shedding light on one of the most globalized of all economic activities. In a clear and engaging manner, they reveal the history of reinsurance in both national and international contexts, aiming to illuminate this vital, but often overlooked, aspect of insurance.

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    International Reinsurance in the 1920s (André Straus)

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    International Reinsurance in the 1920s

    André Straus

    On the eve of the First World War, the worldwide reinsurance landscape was dominated by only a few actors. Germany was the leader, while Austria-Hungary and Russia occupied the second rank. Finally, two Bulgarian companies practised pure reinsurance at international level. However, the reinsurance industry could still be found in Swiss and Scandinavian countries. In France and in Belgium, besides some professional reinsurers, the primary insurance companies also ran the reinsurance branch. Notably, reinsurance in Britain and North America was virtually non-existent. The reinsurance system adopted in England involved the mutual sharing of risks with other primary insurers (coinsurance). According to Gerathewohl, in the middle of the 19th century this approach was adopted in other countries, including the United States. There, reinsurance practice and reinsurance companies were slow to develop, due partly to legal restrictions.1 From a historical point of view, two facts appear astonishing. Britain was the first country which developed the practice of insurance on a large scale, but nevertheless British reinsurance remained weak for a very long time. On the other hand, the United States, in becoming the first economic power in the world, was probably that country where the value of things susceptible to insurance was the highest; however, the development of professional reinsurance was unknown there. This double statement raises the crucial question of the relationship between insurance and reinsurance. Some initial answers could be put forward to explain the lack of professional reinsurance...

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