London 1426–1601: Marine Insurance and the Law Merchant

  • A. B. Leonard
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance Series book series (PSHF)


Prior to a series of merchant-driven state interventions in the 1570s, the primary institutions of contract enforcement for insurance buyers and sellers in London were the merchant community itself, typically embodied in the city’s Lord Mayor and Aldermen, and the merchants’ own body of governing rules, part of the Law Merchant. In 1781 the underwriter John Weskett published his encyclopaedic Complete digest of theory, laws and practise of insurance, which describes the Law Merchant as follows:1

The affairs of commerce are regulated by a law of their own, called the Law Merchant, or Lex Mercatoria, which all nations agree in and take notice of: and in particular it is held to be a part of the law of England, which decides the causes of merchants by the general rules which obtain in all commercial countries.2


Dispute Resolution Marine Insurance Insurance Buyer Privy Council Merchant Guild 
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© A.B. Leonard 2016

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