Here at the Insurance Museum, we are in the last stages of developing the next online gallery. Powered by the Industrial Revolution continues the story of Fire Insurance and follows the expansion of fire insurance from 1760 through to the early 1820s.
The Industrial Revolution changed the geo-political and economic landscape of Britain especially in northern towns and cities, such as Manchester, Leeds, and Nottingham. From the mid-18th century through to the mid-19th century, industry boomed, and urban areas quickly developed on a large scale. In fact, by the mid-19th century, Britain was known as the ‘Workshop of the World’.
One of the main drivers behind the boom was the ingenuity of inventors, scientists and business-minded entrepreneurs. While this was indeed a core reason for the commercial success of Britain, there were many other factors at work. For example, Britain had established international trade connections, a growing population, easy access to raw materials, capital to invest, plus a large agricultural population ready to supply food for the workers in the factories and cities. On an individual level, success also required business acumen, an understanding of law and a grasp of marketing.
The new technologies resulted in an explosion of materials and goods that had previously been only for the rich. They were now produced cheaply and on a large scale. With the technological developments, there were often new unknown risks. For example, complex cotton mills were built with larger spinning mules and water frames. With the nature of the process, the raw materials at hand, and the friction of the moving parts in the machines, fires were a frequent occurrence.
The emergence of these new complicated fire hazards posed a challenge to the established fire insurance practices, which were beginning to look not fit for purpose. Insurance developed hand in hand with the Industrial Revolution. As the understanding of how fire starts and spreads, predicting and dealing with fire became more sophisticated and scientific. Thus, insurance business models and approaches were improved.
Powered by the Industrial Revolution will trace this development into the early 19th century and will focus on some of the main events that moved insurance thinking and practice forward. The gallery will be launched this summer. We will keep you up to date with progress.
Our online galleries are generously funded by the Education and Training Trust of the Chartered Insurance Institute.