Privilege, Economy and State in Old Regime France
Title Details

376 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

2 illus.

Imprint: Boydell Press

Privilege, Economy and State in Old Regime France

Marine Insurance, War and the Atlantic Empire under Louis XIV

by Lewis Wade

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Online Appendices
This book closely analyses the rise and fall of Louis XIV's marine insurance institutions in Paris, which were central to the French monarchy's efforts to stimulate commerce, colonial enterprise and economic growth. These institutions were the projects of two leading ministers, Jean-Baptiste Colbert and his son, the Marquis de Seignelay. While both men recognised that marine insurance was crucial for protecting commercial investment in French maritime endeavours, Colbert looked to private enterprise to lure capital away from passive investments in state debt towards the marine insurance industry. Seignelay, by contrast, leveraged the tools of privilege on which the French economy was built by creating the first chartered company in the history of marine insurance. In exploring the global insurance portfolios of the men and women who joined these institutions - and the conflicts that arose when maritime incidents came into dispute - the book identifies the absolute monarchy itself as the source of the institutions' struggles. While the markets of Amsterdam and London thrived in the long run, Parisian insurers were made to bear the burden of maritime and colonial losses during Louis XIV's costly wars to make up for the state's inadequate protection of French shipping, the French Atlantic empire and the Parisian market. This encapsulates, the book argues, the overarching system of risk management that lay at the heart of absolutism itself.

The ebook edition of this book is openly available under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND.

Part 1: Insurance, Privilege and Commercial Policy
1 The Royal Insurance Chamber and Colbertian Commercial Policy, 1664-1683

2 The Royal Insurance Company and Privilege in Post-Colbertian Commercial Policy, 1683-c. 1700

3 'Over thirty leagues from the sea': Paris, Information Asymmetries and State Intervention

Part 2: War, Maritime Commerce and Empire
4 Underwriting in War and Peace: Fortune and Failure in the Royal Insurance Chamber, 1668-1672

5 In the Absence of the State: The Royal Insurance Company, the Atlantic Empire and Neutral Shipping, 1686-1698

Part 3: Law, Conflict Resolution and the Absolute Monarchy
6 'In the time of the Ordonnance': Insurance, Law and Maritime Jurisdiction

7 'Impavidum ferient': Reputation, Conflict Resolution and State Propaganda in the Royal Insurance Chamber, 1668-1686

8 'Nec hostes nec mare terrent': Reputation, Conflict Resolution and Privilege in the Royal Insurance Company, 1686-1701

Conclusion: Privilege at a Premium

Appendix I (online)
Appendix II (online)


Lewis Wade is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at Leiden University (2023-25). His thesis won the British Commission for Maritime History's Boydell and Brewer Prize (2021) for the best doctoral thesis in maritime history.

The author has provided appendices to accompany the text. These can be downloaded in PDF format here.

Appendix I: Additional information for Chapter 4
Appendix II: Additional information for Chapter 5



October 2023

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Title Details

376 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

2 illus.

Imprint: Boydell Press