18 Jun: Insuring Your Life

The world’s first life insurance policy was signed on June 18th, 1583.

The person insured was one William Gybbons, who worked as a meat and fish salter, and the beneficiary of the policy was a man named Richard Martin. Curiously, the relationship between the two men has been lost in the mists of time.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly do the maths and work out exactly how much a human life is worth; discuss how, like all good insurers, the underwriters tried to weasel out of having to pay the policy after Gybbons died; and reveal why Ancient Romans used to have clowns at their funerals…

Further Reading:

• ‘Betting on Lives: The Culture of Life Insurance in England, 1695-1775’ (Manchester University Press, 1999): https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Betting_on_Lives/3wq8AAAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0 

• ‘The greatest surety: a brief history of life insurance’ (InsurTech, 2023): https://insurtechdigital.com/articles/the-greatest-surety-a-brief-history-of-life-insurance 

• ‘Life Insurance Day: The History’ (Beagle Street, 2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO-auTZ6fcI 

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