‘The market in public loans was at the heart of the financial development of the City of London, and crucial to the success of the fiscal-military state.’ So wrote Martin Daunton in Progress and poverty. This chapter shows how marine insurers were important to that market, and thus to the fiscal-military state, during what was perhaps its greatest test: the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Today a collection of Nelson memorabilia is displayed on the trading floor at Lloyd's of London, the historic insurance market. However, insurance underwriters’ subscriptions to state loans – a double use of their capital, which also underwrote the risks of the nation's oceanic trade – were at least as important to Britain's victories as Nelson's successes.
This chapter opens with a very brief introduction to London marine insurance, then describes the underwriter John Julius Angerstein and his littleknown government loan contracting activity. It then discusses the subscribers to his loans of 1812 and 1813 to reveal the importance of insurance underwriters’ capital in funding the wartime borrowing of the British state. It shows the large contribution made by private, individual insurers – the merchant class – through investment in government loans, in financing the Napoleonic Wars, and that the double use of their capital – simultaneously for state finance and for the business of insuring – eliminate in their example any question of crowding out during this period.
The chapter is based largely on the analysis of two principal and several secondary sources. Primary is Angerstein's loan subscription book, held in the London Metropolitan Archive, where it is identified only as a ‘ledger’. The book lists the names of all of the subscribers to Angerstein's portions of the four state loans for which he was contractor between 1812 and 1815. Equally important is the ‘Roll of Lloyd’s’, a typewritten volume compiled by Warren Dawson, Lloyd's honorary librarian, in 1931. The two copies made are held at Lloyd's and list all known underwriting members of Lloyd's since its foundation as an independent organisation in 1771, and the date of their election to membership. Additional sources, used to confirm the identity of loan subscribers, include a list of insurance underwriters used by Angerstein, various London commercial directories, and others.