Swiss Re 1864–1906


Sharing the Risk: Fire, Climate and Disaster

This study shows how the company handled the changing risk of fire and focuses, in particular, on climate as a factor that was capable of outplaying the company’s geographical distribution of reinsured units. It is rooted in business as well as in environmental history, thus contributing to a field which may be called environmental business history. The book’s findings are meaningful in the context of the current debate on the insurance industry’s role in the adaptation to climate change.



In 1861 the Swiss town of Glarus was destroyed by fire. The conflagration was the direct spur for the creation of Swiss Re, which has now become one of the world’s largest re-insurers. Today, the company has left the struggles of its founding years far behind. The book focuses on these ‘birth pains’ and follows the development of the company up to one of its largest loss cases: the earthquake and fire of San Francisco in 1906. For a long time, the success of Swiss Re depended on the fortunes of its largest branch, fire reinsurance.

  • Author: Eleonora Rohland
  • Binding: paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-905472-13-0
  • Pages: 200
  • Illustrations: 70
  • Date of Publication: 18 March 2011
  • Dimensions: 234 × 158mm

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