Prometheus Tamed 

Fire, Security, and Modernities, 1400 to 1900


Over 8,200 large city fires broke out between 1000 and 1939 CE in Central Europe. Prometheus Tamed inquires into the long-term history of that fire ecology, its local and regional frequencies, its relationship to climate history. It asks for the visual and narrative representation of that threat in every-day life. Institutional forms of fire insurance emerged in the form of private joint stock companies (the British model, starting in 1681) or in the form of cameralist fire insurances (the German model, starting in 1676). They contributed to shape and change society, transforming old communities of charitable solidarity into risk communities, finally supplemented by networks of cosmopolite aid. After 1830, insurance agencies expanded tremendously quickly all over the globe: Cultural clashes of Western and native perceptions of fire risk and of what is insurance can be studied as part of a critical archaeology of world risk society and the plurality of modernities.

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Cornel Zwierlein, Ph.D. (2003) University of Munich (LMU) and the CESR Tours is currently on a Heisenberg-Stelle at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, FU Berlin. Before he was w1-Prof. 2008-2017. He holds the Habilitation (Privatdozent) at RUB Bochum (2011/3), was Fellow at the History Department, Harvard University 2013-2015, Associate there 2016, 2018, CRASSH Cambridge 2014, Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt 2017/18. His monographs include: Discorso and Lex Dei (French Wars of Religion, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: 2006), The Political Thought of the French League and Rome, 1585-1589 (Droz: 2016) and Imperial Unknowns. The French and the British in the Mediterranean, 1650-1750 (Cambridge UP, 2016/8).
List of Figures and Tables

1 Introduction

2 Spaces, Value, Presentism: Premodern Insurance
 1 The Commercial Communication System around 1400
 2 Insurance as an Accounting Trick between the World of Nature and the World of Values
 3 Premiums of Presentism: Hidden Forces within the History of Law
 4 International Trade Law and Insurance as an Achievement of the Moderni
 5 Summary

3 The Danger between Nature and Culture: The Quotidian Threat of Urban Fires in the Premodern Era
 1 The “Reality” of the Danger: Fire Cycles, Fire Frequencies
  1.1 The “Fire Gap”
  1.2 8,200 Fires in Germany and Austria
  1.3 Trends in Fire Frequencies According to Fire Insurance Statistics
  1.4 War and Fire Trends
  1.5 Climate and Fire Trends
  1.6 The Fire Ecology of Hamburg
  1.7 Summary
 2 The Perception of Danger
  2.1 The Theology of Divine Punishment and the Fire Events of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Security Losses, Security Gains
  2.2 Visualization and Affect
   2.2.1 The Modernity of City Fire Images and Their Dutch Provenance
   2.2.2 A Discrepancy: Mythological/Biblical City Fire Paintings vs. the Low Number/Quality of Paintings of “Real” City Fires
   2.2.3 Early Modern Image Theory and Disaster Images
   2.2.4 Temporalization, Eventfulness and Affect Control
   2.2.5 Threat Perception, Security Requirements, and Emotionalization
  2.3 Ground Zeros: Visualization and Time Horizons
 3 Developmental Trends of “Real-Assecuration”: Fire Policey, Construction
  3.1 The Security Regimes between the Late Middle Ages and the Enlightenment and between the City and the Territories
  3.1.1 Cologne: An Important Medieval Imperial City
  3.1.2 The German Center of Security Innovations: Hamburg
  3.1.3 The State’s “Images” of the City Collective: An Approach to Disaster Memory and to Learning from Disaster (e.g., Prussia)
  3.2 Panaceas: from “Local Knowledge” to Science and Back Again to Popular Enlightenment
 4 Summary

4 The Epochal Threshold of the Security Regimes 1680–1700
 1 Laboratories of Innovation: Hamburg and Berlin---1680–1700
  1.1 London: Nicholas Barbon
   1.1.1 Protostatistics, Protoprobabilistic Reasoning, and the Conflict between State and Private Economies
   1.1.2 Nicholas Barbon: Building Speculator and Growth Theorist
   1.1.3 Insurance Innovation and the “Financial Revolution”
  1.2 Hamburg and Leibniz
   1.2.1 The Hamburg General Fire Fund: Innovation without an Inventor
   1.2.2 Transformation into an Element of Economic Provisioning: Leibniz Before Leibniz: The Rulership Contract and Disaster Insurance around 1600 Leibniz and the Territorial Institutionalization of Insurance “Real-Assecuration”: The Founding of the Berlin Academy and Fire Association
  1.3 Summary: The Power of Analogies
 2 Religious Culture and “Insurance”
  2.1 Max Weber, the Protestant Ethic, Calvin(ism), and Economics
  2.2 A Historiographical Gap: Insuring and Religious Denominations
  2.3 Insurance History and Protestantism: The Search for Evidence

5 The Emergence of the Normal Secure Society
 1 Insurance and Social Structures
  1.1 Collective Solidarity: from Risk Communities to Cosmopolitical Aid in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  1.2 Insurance as Emerging from Notions of Social Contract and Moral Duty
 2 State and Society in the Code of Numbers
 3 Time Instead of Space: Sustainability and Insurance

6 The Globalization of Safety Regimes: The Return of Space
 1 Hamburg
 2 Istanbul
 3 Bombay/Calcutta
 4 China
 5 USA/New York
 6 Comparative Analysis

7 Conclusion

Appendix 1 Academic Legal Treatises and Dissertations on the Assecuratio (in Chronological Order)
Appendix 2 Chronological List of Cameralist Fire Insurance Foundations in Germany
Appendix 3 Cameralist Treatises of Brandkassen and Insurances
Sources and Literature
Index Locorum
Index Nominum
Index Rerum

Historians of Early Modern and Modern Central Europe, Germany, Austria, England; Economic Historians (Insurance History); History of Ideas (Society, Self-Care, Theology, Legal History of insurance); Environmental History (Natural Hazards, Climate, Security), Historians of Art and Architecture (Landscape, Cityscape representation, History of Maps, of Planning and post-disaster Rebuilding of Cities); History of Sociology (concepts of Risk, Future, Planning, Ignorance); Global History and Multiple Modernities.
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