The London "Booke of Orders": A 16th Century Civil Law Code in England

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Abstract / Description of output

The 16th century was the century of ‘codification’ of insurance customs in Europe. The passage from oral knowledge to written rules entailed significant changes and favoured major developments. This was particularly the case for England, where an insurance code was written between the late 1570s and the early 1580s. In the 16th century English mercantile customs evolved rapidly, detaching themselves from the Italian influence. At the same time, the increasing importance of Anglo-Dutch trade favoured the assimilation of Dutch customs into the London insurance practice. The fast development of English insurance customs, however, entailed significant uncertainty as to the applicable rules. The rapid growth of an insurance market attracted the attention of several courts, thus further increasing uncertainty. The answer of the mercantile community was to establish a specialized court for insurance in London and to write down their customs. The result was a remarkably elaborate code of insurance, quite a unicum in England. The code sought to strike a balance between continuity and change, consolidating some old usages and borrowing foreign customs, mainly Dutch. The significant influence of Dutch customs was probably favoured by the strong commercial links with the Netherlands. English merchants considered similar rules as a means to further trade. In this respect, the English code attests how economic integration might pave the way to legislative convergence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMaastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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