General Insurance Article - Aviva's archives reveal a 309-year history of life insurance


A trawl through Aviva’s archives has revealed some fascinating insights into the history of its protection products. The fundamental principles of Aviva’s life insurance products have remained unchanged since the first policy was sold in 1706, based on “the very laudable principal of making a proper provision for a family which might suddenly be deprived of its support.”*

 First policy:
 Aviva’s life insurance business can be traced back to The Amicable Society, which claimed to be the oldest mutual life office in the world. On 5 August 1706, the first policy was taken out by Nathaniel Carpenter, a merchant who was 53 and lived in St Clements Lane, Lombard Street, London. The policy was for the benefit of his wife Sarah cost an annual sum of £6 and 14 shillings, equivalent to around £1,003** today.
  
 First group scheme:
 This was then followed by the first UK group life insurance scheme in 1846, established by the Provident Clerks’ Mutual Benefit Association. The scheme allowed companies to pay the premiums for providing life assurance to their employees as a benefit of employment. This made it possible for those outside the landed, professional and commercial classes to take advantage of life assurance and make provision for their families.
  
 “A fairy in disguise”: how life insurance was marketed:
 The archives also reveal some interesting ways in which protection insurance has been marketed over the last three centuries, with a Norwich Union staff magazine from 1891 referring to the company as “a fairy in disguise” and a life insurance policy as offering “provision instead of penury, prosperity instead of pinching.”
 
 Other choice phrases describing life insurance include:
 “… of singular use and relief to many families, by providing for great numbers of widows and orphans, who might probably be otherwise left wholly destitute” [Amicable Society charter, 1706.]
 “affording a means of providing for the widow and the orphan, the aged and infirm” [Norwich Union prospectus, 1818.]
 “it offers the means of indemnity against any pecuniary loss, claim or inconvenience” [Edinburgh Life Assurance prospectus, 1823.]
  
 Daddy as the household protector
 “Traditional” family set-ups were also clear in the early part of the 20th century when “Dad” was very much seen as the household breadwinner.
  
 In 1923 a stern solicitor could be seen asking “What provision will you make for your wife?” in a Norwich Union advertisement.
 The man of the house was still very much seen as the breadwinner in a 1935 marketing campaign where families were urged to think about what they would do, should anything happen to ‘Daddy’.
  
 And this household set-up was still clearly apparent in the 1960s when another advert revealed a father pondering “What would you leave them? A house, or a mortgage?”
  
 Louise Colley, managing director, protection for Aviva says:
 “It’s fascinating to see what an important role life insurance has played over the last three centuries, evolving from something only available to affluent members of society, to a product designed to protect people from all walks of life.
  
 “A prospectus from 1823 advises that “the advantages of life assurance attach to every class of the community” - and this view still holds true today. At Aviva we believe that every family deserves protection, so it’s great to see that we’re continuing a legacy that started hundreds of years ago.” 
  
 To view the animation please click here

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