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John Cooke, May 27, 2008
One of the arresting features of the European insurance markets is the diversity of its origins across, and within, the different Member States, and the varying role it has played and continues to play in the economic and social life of different European countries. To take only a few examples, this diversity ranges from developments in the United Kingdom (where early marine insurance was matched by the development of mortality tables and life insurance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) to social insurance in Germany (where Bismarck brought in state-run social insurance) and to health insurance in a number of EU Member States (where mutual insurers provide a service to which policyholders must subscribe). Mapped across this diversity are differing traditions in the extent of compulsory insurance classes, and variations in such insurance fundamentals as contract law (which remains unharmonized). All of these are reasons why the European insurance market, although moving towards greater integration, still has far to travel.