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Video: How the world's first insurance policy appeared in history and what does the boatmen from the Thames have to do with it
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 05:58
That year, by a strange coincidence marked by the "number of the beast" - three sixes, changed London beyond recognition. However, the townspeople were no longer the same, in any case, they were no longer going to resignedly wait for the heavenly punishment, like their grandfathers. The ruins of the City gave birth not only to new buildings, but also to new professions, among which is the profession of a firefighter.
Great London fire
To imagine a city from the past, it is not enough just to mentally rid it of cars, lamp posts, advertising screens and modern-dressed passers-by. London in the 17th century, for example, was a truly medieval city: cramped narrow streets, a cluster of wooden houses and shacks, where a very small fire was enough to endanger almost the entire capital. This is not an exaggeration - in the past, London has practically burned out more than once. It is known about a major fire in 798, followed by 893, and several more - until 1666, when the city was engulfed in the Great London Fire. It was he who became an event that changed a lot in the life of Londoners and residents of other British cities.
First, Thomas Farriner's bakery on Padding Lane caught fire - either from an unattended stove, or from a falling candle. One of the versions regarding the causes of the fire was arson - just in those years there was a war with the Dutch and French, and therefore foreigners were blamed. One way or another, on Sunday night, September 2, 1666, the building caught fire, and very quickly the fire spread to neighboring houses, and then to warehouses. In those years, fires were extinguished by two main methods. First, pouring water over the flame, which, however, was not very effective: they used buckets, which were not enough, and it was not easy with water sources, they were not enough. The second, main method of extinguishing was to destroy the buildings around the burned one, preventing the fire from making its way further. To do this, they used a long - up to nine meters - pole with a hook at the end - with its help they broke the roof. There were no permanent fire brigades in those years - the residents of the city organized themselves on the spot, if the bell of a nearby church announced a fire that had started.
During the Great Fire of London, the destruction was late: the Lord Mayor did not give orders in time, and then it was too late. By Tuesday, the third day, most of the city was already on fire. They tried to extinguish with water from the Thames, but warehouses and shipyards filled with flammable materials - tar, hemp, tar, gunpowder were already blazing on the shore. In four days of the fire, up to fifteen thousand houses were destroyed by fire, about seventy thousand Londoners were left without a roof over their heads - almost the entire population of the city. It was possible to cope with the fire due to the fact that the east wind died down and it was possible with the help of gunpowder to clear the spaces between the buildings, the fire stopped moving on.
Dr. Barbon's insurance company
In past centuries, fires were treated as divine punishment, with which it was pointless to argue. Londoners continued to live as before: houses were built mainly of wood - it was much cheaper than stone and brick. In the event of destruction by fire, households turned to the church for help and collected donations - of course, usually in an amount much less than was required to compensate for all losses. But the Great Fire of London made its own adjustments.
Firstly, the construction of new houses on the site of the burned ones was postponed by King Charles II until the master plan of the city was developed and approved. The streets were to be wide and straight. and now it was necessary to make a distance between houses. The surviving wooden buildings needed to be rebuilt, and new buildings should be erected only of stone or brick. London was divided into neighborhoods, each of them had to have equipment for extinguishing a fire, and each house had to have buckets. But not only the city authorities started the change. One of the residents of the capital, a former doctor who later became an economist and developer, Nicholas Barbon, came up with a way to protect the interests of residents in the event of a fire, and at the same time make a profit. In 1667 he founded the world's first insurance company called The Fire Office, which later became known as Phoenix.
How did the fire department appear?
You could insure your home and property for a period of one to thirty-one years. Insurance rates were low, and the new initiative received support from the townspeople. Following the Barbon Fire Office, other insurance companies began to emerge. They not only kept accounts and paid compensation to the victims of the fire, but also assembled their own permanent fire brigades to extinguish the fire and reduce the amount of insurance payments.
Until the 19th century, there were no numbers on houses in London, and in order to distinguish clients of insurance companies, the walls were marked with a special sign, hanging plates with the emblem of the insurance companies. By the way, it turned out that it made sense for firefighters to extinguish only the flames that were devouring customers' homes, and in other cases it was possible to be inactive; and so it went. The first crews invited boatmen from the Thames - they were strong, resilient and always close by. The brigade could have from eight to forty people. Equipment for extinguishing also appeared - including prototypes of fire engines - barrels on wheels filled with water and equipped with pumps.
And most importantly, Great Britain has become the birthplace of the insurance business. It turned out to be promising - the relevant deals were concluded not only in the capital, but also in other large cities of the country, and in the 19th century - in the New World, including the West Indies, Canada and the USA. Over time, insurance companies began to unite their firefighting brigades. allowed to reduce costs. And after the fire of 1861, the entire fire protection system came under the control of the city and began to be funded and controlled by the state. The insurance companies had only the obligation to pay to the treasury an amount proportional to the value of the property they insured.
Incidentally, due to the Great Fire in 1666, the plague epidemic that gripped London a year earlier receded. And here what pandemics faced the ancients and how they explained their occurrence.
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