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Far from being a niche commercial oddity, marine insurance was a powerful tool of early modern economic development which states leveraged in the pursuit of their commercial, naval and colonial ambitions. This paper analyses the Royal Insurance Company and its deployment by the French absolute monarchy during the Nine Years’ War (1688-97). Established in Paris in 1686 by the marquis de Seignelay, one of Louis XIV’s ministers, this was the first chartered company in the history of marine insurance. Drawing on institutional and state papers, the paper argues that the Company became a vessel for the subvention of wartime commerce, supporting French colonial and maritime activity in the absence of a navy capable of protecting domestic and neutral shipping. This contrasts strongly with the relationship between the Royal Navy and Lloyd’s of London, which worked together in the pursuit of shared interests, thus offering new insights into the rise of the British fiscal-naval state. Moreover, in reflecting on the Company’s structure and the way in which it was deployed, the paper reinterprets France’s chartered companies as valuable tools of absolute power, supporting state ambitions in spaces where the state itself was weak. 

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