Insurance in France: late 19th century - early 20th century

At the end of the 19th century, several pieces of legislation had been promulgated to regulate the personal line insurance in France. Two of these provisions proved to be of crucial importance for the development of the market.
  • Paris in 1869 as seen by the painter Adolph von Menzel Law of 1 April 1898, which provided mutual companies with the option of marketing all types of insurance plans or specializing in just one of them.
  • Law of 9 April 1898, which made compensation for work-related accidents mandatory.

The second Industrial Revolution, which started in Europe in 1890, brought about numerous cases of bodily injuries in the emerging industries.

The law of 9 April 1898 was therefore a founding provision for the insurance business, meeting a new need for employees’ protection. France thus became the first country to offer insurance covering occupational accidents.

Insurance in France during the First World War

During the First World War (1914-1918), the French government cancelled all insurance contracts concluded with powers considered as enemies.

In 1917, the authorities banned the commercial activities of German and Austro-Hungarian companies throughout France. A blacklist of insurers and reinsurers with capital held by the so-called "enemy" countries was drawn up.

To fill the void left by the German operators, ten French entities had been founded between 1916 and 1921.

This period was also marked by inflation, which heavily penalized the insurance sector, with many life insurance companies sustaining a decline in their assets between 1913 and 1921.

In order to cope with the economic situation, rates had substantially gone up and were three times higher. Half of the foreign life insurers present on the market before the war left France.

Insurance in France during the interwar period

With the end of the First World War and monetary stabilization, France returned to growth. However, the Wall Street crash of 1929 interrupted this short period of progress.

Shortly before the Second World War, the French insurance market had bounced back and the country succeeded in stabilizing inflation and its currency, embarking on a phase of rapid industrialization.

This period was characterized by insurance growth with the creation of new property & casualty schemes: credit insurance, motor insurance, and miscellaneous risks; hence the establishment of several entities designed to keep up with this development and regulate the sector.

Consequently, the following entities were created:

  • the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Agents Généraux d'Assurances (the national federation of the syndicates of general insurance agents), (FNSAGA) in 1919,
  • the Bureau Central français des compagnies d’assurances pour l’étude des statistiques, (French central bureau of insurance companies) dealing with motor insurance in 1929,
  • the Fédération Française des Sociétés d’Assurance (the French federation of insurance companies) in 1936.

The legislative framework has also kept pace with the revival, with the promulgation of several laws including those regulating the insurance contract and establishing State control over insurance companies:

  • law of 13 July1930 governing insurance contracts,
  • decree-law of 8 August 1935 imposing control over motor insurance,
  • decree-law of 28 October 1935 ordering compulsory affiliation of trade and industry employees to the social insurance plan,
  • decree-law of 14 June 1938 standardizing the various regulations and State control over insurance and capitalization companies,
  • law of 12 July 1940 attaching the Insurance Department to the Ministry of Finance.

Insurance in France at the end of the Second World War

As soon as the Second World War ended, the Law of 25 April 1946 was enacted, authorizing the partial nationalization of 34 of the largest insurance companies in France (the Union, the Urbaine, the Phénix, the Assurances Générales, the Soleil, the Aigle, the Nationale, Cie Générale de Réassurance, the Mutuelle Générale Française Accidents, …).

The law of 25 April 1946 also created the Caisse Centrale de Réassurance (CCR).

End of the 19th century - Early 20th century

  • 1886
    Creation of the Insurance Institute which offers free two-year courses
  • 1890
    Establishment of the French Actuaries’ Institute
  • 1898
    - Law of 1 April extending the powers of mutual companies, which can now operate in all insurance classes of business
    - Law of 9 April introducing a workmen’s compensation insurance and instituting the employer's third-party liability
  • 1905
    Publication of the first law aimed at protecting the insured and improving supervision of insurance companies
  • 1906
    Attachment of the Department of Insurance and Social Security to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security

The first half of the 20th century

  • 1917
    Government ban on all commercial activities of German and Austro-Hungarian companies on French territory
  • 1918
    Confiscation of all assets belonging to German reinsurers established in France
  • 1919
    Establishment of the National Federation of the Syndicates of General Insurance Agents (FNSAGA)
  • 1929
    Creation of the French Central Bureau of Insurance Companies for the study of automobile accident statistics
  • 1930
    Law of 13 July which regulates the insurance contract, a law still in force nowadays
  • 1935
    Law of 13 July regulating motor insurance
  • 1936
    Establishment of the French Federation of Insurance Companies
  • 1938
    Publication of the decree-law of 14 June unifying the various regulations and State control over insurance and capitalization companies
  • 1940
    Attachment of the Insurance Department to the Ministry of Finance
  • 1945
    Abolition of the Insurance Organization Committee. Its responsibilities are transferred to the Insurance Department
  • 1946
    Partial nationalization of 34 insurance companies and creation of the Caisse Centrale de Réassurance
  • 1947
    - Creation of the National Insurance School (ENASS)
    - Decree of 30 September: liberalization of rates for insurance companies
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