A primitive form of marine insurance existed in very early times in what are known as contracts of bottomry or respondentia. This was an arrangement by which the owners of ships borrowed money at a high rate of interest and did not repay the loan if the ship was lost. This was also extended to other property, so that a rudimentary form of burglary insurance can be traced in the distant past. Loans of this kind were transacted in ancient Babylon, as is shown in the Code of Hammurabi, c. 2025 B.C. Contracts of bottomry were prohibited by a decree of Pope Gregory IX in 1234 on the grounds that they were usurious, and some authorities think that it was at this point that insurance in its true sense developed. In 1310 there existed at Bruges a ‘Chamber of Assurances’ for the insurance of merchandise against marine and other risks.
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