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Our history

From humble beginnings in a coffee shop by the Thames in the 1680’s, the stories written into our nearly 350 years of history have always been at the heart of making progress

A pioneering spirit, trusted intelligence and a shared vision for how to build a more secure future have helped Lloyd’s grow into the world’s leading market for specialist insurance. Our unique history is colourful, tempestuous and fascinating, but ultimately about lessons learnt on ways to improve - then, now, and tomorrow - as we work with purpose, sharing risk to create a braver word.  

Coffee and commerce: 1652-1811

As a maritime nation expanded its influence and established trading routes across the globe, Edward Lloyd's coffee shop by the river Thames became the centre of marine intelligence and founded the modern insurance industry.

Sweeping change, new standards: 1827-1945

As industrialisation and the age of machines brought momentous changes to society, Lloyd’s grasped the opportunities to pioneer innovative new insurance solutions for previously undreamt of risk, from flight to new fangled ‘ships navigating on land’.

New frontiers and greater risk: 1965-2014

The rise of electronics, telecommunications and computers opened the doors to space expeditions, research and, most importantly, information on the cold truths of a warming planet.

Building resilience: 2016-

As we better understand the promise of huge advancements in the way we live and work and interact, tempered with the perils of systemic risk, Lloyd’s continues to evolve and build partnerships to create more resilience and greater ability to harness the changes coming in the next chapter of human development.

Learning from our past

In 2020, Lloyd’s apologised for its historical links to the transatlantic slave trade. 

Our apology was accompanied by a commitment to make an honest account of our past a part of the story we tell at Lloyd’s. We have undertaken several pieces of research to understand and contextualise our historical links to the transatlantic slave trade, including an independent research collaboration with Black Beyond Data, based at Johns Hopkins University which was published in November 2023.

Important people from our past

Our history has been shaped by many people over the centuries. We’ve selected a few of the most significant characters, including founder and coffee shop owner Edward Lloyd, and the pioneering Cuthbert Heath.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade

We are deeply sorry for the Lloyd’s market’s participation in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is part of our shared history that caused enormous suffering and continues to have a negative impact for Black and ethnically diverse people into the present day.

Catastrophe and claims

It’s only when a claim arises that the true quality of any insurer is properly tested; and time and time again, Lloyd’s has risen to challenges of the most extreme kind.

Time Capsule

In 1984 a time capsule, a snapshot of a place and time, was buried within the roof of the new Lloyd’s building, in a ‘topping-out’ ceremony presided over by HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. A nod to the traditions and history of Lloyd’s, high above the streets of the City, in one of the most cutting-edge buildings ever imagined.
Not a breeze can blow in any latitude, not a storm can burst, not a fog can rise, in any part of the world, without recording its history here.
A journalist describes the Underwriting Room at Lloyd’s, 1859
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Pocket Guide to Lloyd’s

Read about the Lloyd’s market, history and building in the Pocket Guide: our market, our past, our home.

Lloyd’s is the world’s specialist insurance and reinsurance market. With expertise earned over centuries, Lloyd’s is the foundation of the insurance industry and the future of it. For over 330 years, people, businesses and communities have relied on the Lloyd’s market to protect what matters most and we are proud to continue that service today.

Lloyd’s Corporate Archive

Lloyd’s Corporate Archive is freely accessible to the public. The catalogue of our Corporate Archive is available at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Most of the collection dates from 1771, with some deeds dating back to 1585. 

Please note that the Captains’ Registers are held at London Metropolitan Archives and the rest of the archive is available at the Guildhall Library.