Table of Contents


Insurance serves as a protective measure against potential financial setbacks,  where one party agrees to compensate another party in the event of specific losses, damages, or injuries, in exchange for a fee. This system functions as a method of risk management, primarily utilized to mitigate potential losses that are uncertain or contingent in nature.

An entity providing insurance goes by various names such as an insurer, insurance company, insurance carrier, or underwriter. A person or entity purchasing insurance is referred to as a policyholder, while the individual or entity covered by the policy is termed the insured. The insurance process involves the policyholder assuming a known, limited loss in the form of a premium payment to the insurer. In return, the insurer commits to compensating the insured for covered losses. These losses can be tangible or financial, but they must be quantifiable in monetary terms. Typically, the insured must have an insurable interest established through ownership, possession, or a pre-existing relationship with the subject of the insurance.

The insured receives a legally binding contract called the insurance policy, outlining the terms and scenarios under which the insurer will provide compensation to the insured, their designated beneficiary, or assignee. The cost of coverage outlined in the insurance policy, paid by the policyholder to the insurer, is referred to as the premium. When the insured faces a loss that potentially falls under the insurance policy’s coverage, they file a claim with the insurer, which is then assessed by a claims adjuster. Some insurance policies stipulate a mandatory initial expense known as a deductible before the insurer will pay a claim. In cases of significant risk, an insurer might mitigate its own exposure by obtaining reinsurance, where another insurance company agrees to share some of the risks, particularly when the primary insurer deems the risk too substantial to handle alone.

An advertisement for a fire insurance company Norwich Union, showing the amount of assets in coverage and paid insurance (1910)
An advertisement for a fire insurance company Norwich Union, showing the amount of assets in coverage and paid insurance (1910)
Merchants have sought methods to minimize risks since early times. Pictured, Governors of the Wine Merchant's Guild by Ferdinand Bol, c. 1680.
Merchants have sought methods to minimize risks since early times. Pictured, Governors of the Wine Merchant's Guild by Ferdinand Bol, c. 1680.


Ancient Era

In December 1901 and January 1902, under the guidance of archaeologist Jacques de Morgan, Father Jean-Vincent Scheil, OP, made a discovery of significant historical importance. He unearthed a basalt or diorite stele, approximately 2.25 meters (88.5 inches) tall and broken into three pieces, inscribed with 4,130 lines of cuneiform law dictated by Hammurabi (c. 1792–1750 BC) during the reign of the First Babylonian Empire. This remarkable find occurred in the city of Shush, Iran.

One of the key provisions, Law 100 of the Code of Hammurabi, mandated the repayment schedule of loans by debtors to creditors, specifying maturity dates and contractual terms. Laws 101 and 102 established that a shipping agent, factor, or ship charterer was obligated to repay a loan’s principal only in the case of net income loss or total loss resulting from Acts of God. Law 103 granted relief from liability to agents, factors, or charterers in the event of force majeure, provided they presented an affidavit confirming theft during their charterparty.

Code of Hammurabi Law 104 detailed the obligation of carriers (agents, factors, or charterers) to issue waybills and invoices outlining terms of sales, commissions, laytime, and to obtain a bill of parcel and lien from consignees authorizing consignment. Law 105 clarified that claims filed by agents, factors, and charterers without receipts would not be recognized. Law 126 addressed the consequences of submitting false loss claims, making such actions punishable by law. Law 235 dealt with shipbuilders’ liability within a year of constructing an unseaworthy vessel, specifying replacement to ship-owners if lost during a charterparty term. Laws 236 and 237 addressed liability of sea captains, ship-managers, or charterers for negligence resulting in loss of a vessel and cargo during a charterparty term. Law 238 stipulated that those who saved a ship from total loss were liable to pay only half the ship’s value to the owner. Law 240 established the liability of a cargo ship owner that destroyed a passenger ship in a collision, mandating replacement of the passenger ship and its cargo.

In 1816, an excavation in Minya, Egypt, led to the discovery of a tablet dating from the Nerva–Antonine dynasty era. This tablet provided regulations and membership dues for a burial society collegium established in Lanuvium, Italia, around 133 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

In 1851, Joseph P. Bradley, who would later become a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice, published an article recounting a life table from approximately 220 AD compiled by the Roman jurist Ulpian. This life table was included in the Digesta seu Pandectae, the codification of laws ordered by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I.

Furthermore, the Digesta contained a legal opinion by Roman jurist Paulus on the Lex Rhodia (“Rhodian law”), which outlined the principle of general average in marine insurance. This principle was established on the island of Rhodes around 1000 to 800 BC and forms the foundation of modern insurance.

Insurance practices have ancient origins. Initially, individuals traded goods within their own villages, gradually expanding to neighboring villages. Two types of economies existed: natural economies (using barter and trade) and monetary economies (with markets, currency, financial instruments, etc.). In non-monetary economies, mutual aid agreements existed. Such economies fostered institutions like co-operatives and guilds to provide mutual protection and support. Babylonian, Chinese, and Indian traders practiced risk management methods in monetary economies during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Early forms of insurance included redistributing goods across vessels to limit loss, as well as loan guarantees against theft or loss at sea. Concepts of insurance were also present in ancient Hindu scriptures in the 3rd century BCE, such as Dharmasastra, Arthashastra, and Manusmriti.

Around 600 BC, the Greeks and Romans established guilds known as “benevolent societies.” These groups were dedicated to supporting the families of members who had passed away, in addition to covering funeral costs for their members. Similar practices were carried out by guilds during the Middle Ages. The Jewish Talmud also addressed various aspects of insuring goods. Before the emergence of modern-style insurance in the late 17th century, a concept of “friendly societies” existed in England. Within these societies, individuals contributed money to a common fund that could be utilized during emergencies.

Medieval era

Before traditional marine insurance as we know it today emerged, sea loans (foenus nauticum) were prevalent during medieval times. In this system, an investor lent money to a traveling merchant, and the merchant would be responsible for repaying the loan if the ship returned safely. This practice effectively combined credit and sea insurance. To mitigate the risk associated with sea voyages, merchants were required to pay a high rate of interest, unlike overland merchants who simply shared profits.

In response to the practice of sea loans, commenda contracts were introduced. Under these contracts, investors provided funds to entrepreneurs for trade, assuming the risk of loss in exchange for a share of profits upon the entrepreneur’s return. By the late thirteenth century, Italian merchants began to distinguish risk management from finance. They used cambium contracts to manage finance, based on the purchase of discounted bills of exchange from merchants who didn’t personally embark on sea journeys. To address sea risk, merchants devised insurance loans, where they paid a premium to a shipowner as an unenforceable loan. This agreement obligated the shipowner to compensate the merchant if goods didn’t reach their destination.

The first documented form of marine insurance in Europe emerged in 1293, known as the Bolsa de Comércio, established by mutual agreement by Portuguese merchants.

In the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, European traders faced risks such as theft or fraud by the Captain or crew while selling goods across the globe. To mitigate these risks, traders began hiring commissioned base agents across different markets. This trend led to the establishment of the Chamber of Assurance in Bruges in 1310.

The concept of insurance began to emerge in various forms in different parts of the world. Babylonian, Chinese, and Indian traders practiced methods to distribute risk in monetary economies. The Babylonians had a system recorded in the Code of Hammurabi around 1750 BC, and Roman traders had methods to mitigate risk during the Severan dynasty. Concepts of insurance were also found in Hindu scriptures.

Marine insurance evolved over time to become a crucial component of international trade. It involved various instruments such as marine loans, commenda contracts, and bills of exchange. Marine insurance contracts began to emerge in Italy, and the knowledge and use of insurance spread across Europe and the Mediterranean. In the fifteenth century, the term “policy” for an insurance contract became standardized, and by the sixteenth century, insurance was common in several countries.

Lloyd’s Coffeehouse in London became a prominent marketplace for marine insurance in the eighteenth century. The rules and regulations of insurance were adopted from Italian merchants known as the “Law Merchant,” and specialized courts were established to resolve insurance disputes.

Separate insurance contracts were introduced in Genoa in the 14th century, marking a separation between insurance and investment roles. The first known printed book on insurance, “On Insurance and Merchants’ Bets,” was authored by Pedro de Santarém in 1488.

Through these historical developments, marine insurance emerged as a crucial tool in managing risks associated with trade and maritime voyages.

Modern Insurance

During the Enlightenment era in Europe, insurance underwent further advancement and specialization. In the early 17th century, various specialized types of insurance began to develop in London. A notable example of this can be found in the will of English colonist Robert Hayman. The will mentioned two instances of “policies of insurance” that Hayman had obtained. These policies were taken out with Arthur Duck, the diocesan Chancellor of London. One policy, valued at £100, was related to ensuring the safe arrival of Hayman’s ship in Guyana. The other policy was linked to the sum of “one hundred pounds assured by the said Doctor Arthur Ducke on my life.” This marks an early instance of insurance policies being used to protect against different types of risks, ranging from maritime voyages to personal well-being.

Vehicle Insurance

Vehicle insurance, also referred to as car insurance, motor insurance, or auto insurance, is a form of coverage designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles used on the road. Its primary purpose is to provide financial security in the event of physical damage or bodily injury resulting from road accidents, as well as to cover liability arising from incidents involving a vehicle. Additionally, vehicle insurance may offer financial protection against theft of the insured vehicle and damage sustained due to events unrelated to traffic collisions. These non-collision events can include vandalism, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters, and collisions with stationary objects. The specific terms and conditions of vehicle insurance policies can vary according to the legal regulations governing insurance in each specific region or jurisdiction.

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Property Insurance

The Hamburger Feuerkasse, also known as the Hamburg Fire Office, holds the distinction of being the world’s first officially established fire insurance company. It remains the oldest active insurance enterprise accessible to the public, with its origins dating back to 1676.

The foundation of contemporary property insurance can be linked to the Great Fire of London in 1666, which consumed over 13,000 houses. The catastrophic aftermath of the fire transformed insurance from a mere convenience into an urgent necessity. This shift in perspective was evident in Sir Christopher Wren’s urban plan for London in 1667, which included a designated space for “the Insurance Office.” Although several attempts at fire insurance systems failed, economist Nicholas Barbon and his associates managed to establish the inaugural fire insurance company, named the “Insurance Office for Houses,” in 1681. This company was situated behind the Royal Exchange and focused on insuring both brick and frame homes. At its inception, Barbon’s Insurance Office insured 5,000 homes.

Following this initial successful endeavor, numerous similar companies emerged in the ensuing decades. Each company initially maintained its own fire brigade to prevent and mitigate damage caused by fires in the properties they insured. Additionally, these companies introduced ‘Fire insurance marks’ to identify properties insured by them. These marks were prominently displayed above the main entrance of insured properties. A notable example was the Hand in Hand Fire & Life Insurance Society, established in 1696 at Tom’s Coffee House in London’s St Martin’s Lane. This mutual society operated its own fire brigade for 135 years and played a crucial role in shaping fire prevention and firefighting practices. The Sun Fire Office, dating back to 1710, is the earliest surviving property insurance company.

However, this system was found to be deeply flawed, as rival brigades often ignored burning buildings that lacked insurance policies with their respective companies. A solution was eventually devised in which all insurance companies contributed funds and equipment to a municipal authority responsible for evenly distributing fire prevention resources and firefighters throughout the city. Despite this improvement, the brigades still displayed a bias toward saving insured buildings over uninsured ones.

In Colonial America, the first fire insurance underwriting company emerged in Charles Town (modern-day Charleston), South Carolina in 1732. Benjamin Franklin played a pivotal role in popularizing and standardizing insurance practices, particularly in the form of perpetual property insurance to mitigate fire-related risks. In 1752, Franklin established the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. This company not only cautioned against specific fire hazards but also declined to insure certain high-risk structures, such as wooden houses.

An 18th-century fire insurance contract.
An 18th-century fire insurance contract.

Business Insurance

Simultaneously, the initial insurance schemes designed to support business ventures emerged. By the close of the seventeenth century, London’s rising significance as a trade hub spurred a heightened demand for marine insurance.

During the late 1680s, Edward Lloyd inaugurated a coffee house on Tower Street in London. This period coincided with a proliferation of hundreds of coffee houses across London, each catering to specific social circles. Lloyd’s establishment primarily attracted ship owners, merchants, and captains. This enabled Lloyd’s Coffee House to evolve into a reliable hub for up-to-date shipping updates, including reports on ship sinkings and cargo losses. As a result, Lloyd’s became the preferred venue for those in the shipping industry to transact business related to insuring ships and cargoes, as well as for underwriters willing to support such ventures. These informal beginnings laid the groundwork for the creation of the renowned insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, along with several associated shipping and insurance enterprises. In 1774, long after Edward Lloyd’s passing in 1713, the members participating in the insurance arrangement formed a committee and relocated to the Royal Exchange on Cornhill, establishing themselves as the Society of Lloyd’s. Throughout its history, Lloyd’s has operated not as an insurance company itself, but as a gathering place for individuals (and more recently, small groups) issuing insurance policies.

In 1720, the Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation received a royal charter through the Royal Exchange and London Assurance Corporation Act of 1719. This legislation granted the corporation exclusive rights to insure marine property in Great Britain. However, individuals both within and outside the Lloyd’s consortium were permitted to underwrite insurance if not incorporated. Between 1741 and 1750, the corporation was led by Nicholas Magens, a multinational merchant, attorney, and author.

Once established, insurance underwriters such as those at Lloyd’s gradually diversified their offerings over numerous decades, venturing into various lines of insurance. In a similar, gradual fashion, most fire insurers expanded their coverage to include protection against other forms of property loss and damage. Many also met the demand for liability insurance, both personal and business-related, covering scenarios like injuries caused by defective products and premises. This evolution led to the comprehensive array of insurance lines we now recognize as the modern global property-liability insurance market.

Life Insurance

Life insurance policies were first introduced in the early 18th century. The pioneering company in the realm of life insurance was the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, established in London in 1706 by William Talbot and Sir Thomas Allen. Their initial life insurance plan involved members making fixed annual payments per share (ranging from one to three shares), determined by the age of the members, spanning twelve to fifty-five years. At the end of each year, a portion of the “amicable contribution” was distributed among the widows and children of deceased members, the allotment being proportional to the number of shares held by the beneficiaries. The Amicable Society commenced its operations with 2000 members.

The groundwork for modern life insurance was laid by Edmund Halley, who created the first life table in 1693. However, it wasn’t until the 1750s that the necessary mathematical and statistical tools were available for the development of contemporary life insurance. Mathematician and actuary James Dodson attempted to establish a new company issuing premiums that accurately covered the risks of long-term life assurance policies. His efforts were spurred by his rejection from the Amicable Life Assurance Society due to his advanced age. Unfortunately, Dodson was unsuccessful in securing a government charter for his company before he passed away in 1757.

His disciple, Edward Rowe Mores, eventually succeeded in establishing the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorship in 1762. This marked the world’s first mutual insurer, introducing age-based premiums aligned with mortality rates. This innovation set the foundation for scientific insurance practices and the subsequent development of all life assurance schemes.

Mores also introduced the title “actuary” for the chief official, marking the earliest known reference to this role in a business context. The first modern actuary, William Morgan, assumed the position in 1775 and held it until 1830. By 1776, the Society had conducted the initial actuarial valuation of liabilities and subsequently distributed the first reversionary bonus in 1781 and interim bonus in 1809 among its members. The Society maintained a system of regular valuations to balance competing interests, ensuring that policyholders received equitable returns on their investments. Premiums were determined by age, and the Society maintained an inclusive admission policy regardless of health or other circumstances.

Life insurance sales began in the United States in the late 1760s. The Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of Presbyterian Ministers was founded in 1759 by Presbyterian Synods in Philadelphia and New York. In 1769, Episcopalian priests established a similar relief fund. Between 1787 and 1837, over two dozen life insurance companies were established, but only a handful managed to survive.

Accident Insurance

During the late 19th century, the concept of “accident insurance” began to emerge, resembling modern-day disability insurance. The pioneer in offering accident insurance was the Railway Passengers Assurance Company, established in 1848 in England as a response to the growing number of fatalities on the emerging railway system. Initially named the Universal Casualty Compensation Company, its purpose was to: Provide assurances on the lives of individuals traveling by railway and to offer compensation to the assured for injuries sustained under specific conditions, in cases of non-fatal accidents.

The company entered into an agreement with railway companies, enabling them to bundle basic accident insurance with travel tickets for customers. Premiums were adjusted higher for second and third-class travel, reflecting the increased risk of injury associated with roofless carriages.

National Insurance

Towards the late 19th century, governments embarked on establishing national insurance programs to address sickness and old age. Germany’s efforts drew inspiration from welfare initiatives in Prussia and Saxony, dating back to the 1840s. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck played a pivotal role in the 1880s by introducing comprehensive measures including old-age pensions, accident insurance, and medical care. These initiatives laid the foundation for Germany’s welfare state. Bismarck’s approach found favor with German industry, as his policies aimed to garner working-class support for the Empire and discourage emigration to higher-wage but welfare-lacking America.

In Britain, more extensive legislative changes occurred under the leadership of H. H. Asquith and David Lloyd George of the Liberal government. The 1911 National Insurance Act introduced the first contributory insurance system against illness and unemployment for the British working class.

Under this scheme, workers earning less than £160 annually contributed 4 pence weekly, employers contributed 3 pence, and general taxation provided 2 pence. Consequently, workers gained access to sick leave benefits, receiving 10 shillings per week for the initial 13 weeks and 5 shillings per week for the subsequent 13 weeks. The Act also offered free tuberculosis treatment and maternity benefits. Unemployment benefits, based on actuarial principles, were funded by fixed amounts from workers, employers, and taxpayers. This benefit was limited to specific industries, particularly those that were cyclical or seasonal, such as shipbuilding, and did not include provisions for dependents. By 1913, about 2.3 million individuals were insured for unemployment benefits and nearly 15 million for sickness benefits.

This system underwent substantial expansion following World War II, influenced by the Beveridge Report, ultimately giving rise to the modern welfare state.

In the United States, prior to the enactment of the Social Security Act in 1935, the federal government had not imposed any universal insurance mandate. The passage of this Act introduced a new perspective and acceptance of insurance as a means of achieving individual financial security. The post-World War II era witnessed a significant boost in the insurance concept, particularly through the VA Home Loan programs that aimed to provide affordable housing for veterans. During this period, federal government-backed mortgages included insurance clauses to safeguard banks and lending institutions from avoidable losses. The 1940s also saw the GI life insurance policy program, which aimed to alleviate the impact of military losses on civilians and survivors.

Leaflet promoting the National Insurance Act 1911


What Do You Mean by Insurance?

Insurance is a financial product that reduces or eliminates the cost of loss or effect of a loss caused by various types of risks. It acts as a safety net that protects an individual or entity from financial hardship due to unexpected events.

What is the Basic Concept of Insurance?

The basic concept of insurance is the transfer of risk from an individual to a group. It involves pooling the risks of many individuals together, which allows the insurer to operate profitably while covering the claims of those who suffer losses.

What is the Purpose of Insurance?

The purpose of insurance is to provide financial protection and peace of mind to individuals and businesses by mitigating the financial risks associated with potential future losses due to events like accidents, theft, or natural disasters.

What is Insurance in Basic Terms?

In basic terms, insurance is a contract (policy) in which an individual or entity receives financial protection or reimbursement against losses from an insurance company. The company pools clients’ risks to make payments more affordable for the insured.

What is Insurance and Examples?

Insurance is a mechanism for protecting people against financial loss. Examples include:

  • Health insurance: covers medical expenses
  • Auto insurance: covers vehicles against accidents or theft
  • Home insurance: protects against damage to a home due to disasters like fire.

What are the 7 Principles of Insurance?

The seven principles of insurance are:

  1. Utmost Good Faith
  2. Insurable Interest
  3. Proximate Cause
  4. Indemnity
  5. Subrogation
  6. Contribution
  7. Loss Minimization

What is Insurance and Its Characteristics?

Insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of contingent or uncertain loss. Key characteristics include the pooling of risks, the transfer of risk from the insured to the insurer, and the reliance on the law of large numbers to predict loss outcomes reasonably accurately.

What is Risk in Insurance?

In insurance, risk is the possibility of a loss or other adverse event that has the potential to interfere with an organization’s ability to fulfill its financial goals. Insurance is designed to mitigate risks associated with unexpected financial losses.

What is the Insurance Policy Method?

The insurance policy method involves issuing a contract or policy that specifies the terms under which the insurance company agrees to insure the policyholder against certain types of loss in exchange for premiums paid by the policyholder.

Is Insurance a Product or Service?

Insurance can be viewed as both a product and a service. As a product, it offers a policy that has tangible parameters defining coverage limits, deductibles, and premiums. As a service, it provides risk management and claims support.

What is the Subject of Insurance?

The subject of insurance is the object or entity that is covered under the policy, such as a car in auto insurance, a house in home insurance, or an individual’s life in life insurance.

What’s Premium in Insurance?

A premium in insurance is the amount of money that an individual or business must pay for an insurance policy. It is the cost to keep the policy active and to have coverage for the specified term or risk.

What are the Benefits of Life Insurance?

The benefits of life insurance include providing financial security to surviving dependents after the death of an insured person. It can help cover funeral costs, debts, and ongoing living expenses, and can also serve as an inheritance.

What is Double Insurance?

Double insurance occurs when the same person is insured by more than one policy for the same risk, for the same period, and for a larger amount than the actual value of the subject matter.

What is Insurance in Banking?

In banking, insurance services can include products like mortgage insurance, which protects the lender from a default on a mortgage, credit insurance, or travel insurance sold directly to customers via their banking platform.

What are the 6 Rules of Insurance?

The six rules of insurance typically include principles such as:

  1. Insurable Interest
  2. Utmost Good Faith
  3. Indemnity
  4. Contribution
  5. Subrogation
  6. Proximate Cause

What is the Difference Between Insurance and Assurance?

The main difference between insurance and assurance is that insurance typically covers risks associated with specific events (e.g., accidents or theft), while assurance is used to cover events that are certain to occur, such as death (seen in life assurance).

What are the Different Types of Insurance?

The different types of insurance include:

  • Life Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Liability Insurance These cover various aspects of an individual’s or business’s risks.

What are the Purposes of Life Insurance?

The purposes of life insurance include providing financial protection to beneficiaries upon the insured’s death, serving as a savings tool (especially in the case of whole life insurance), and offering tax benefits in many jurisdictions.

What is Insurance and Its Importance and Need?

Insurance is important as it provides economic protection against unpredictable events that can cause financial stress. It helps individuals and businesses cope with potential losses and ensures financial stability by spreading the cost of potential losses to many individuals.

What are the 4 Most Important Types of Insurance?

The four most important types of insurance are:

  1. Health Insurance
  2. Life Insurance
  3. Auto Insurance
  4. Homeowners Insurance These provide essential coverage for health, life, property, and vehicles, respectively.

What are 5 Disadvantages of Insurance?

Five disadvantages of insurance include:

  1. Cost: Premiums can be expensive and not always affordable.
  2. Complexity: Policies can be complex and hard to understand.
  3. Claim Denials: Insurers may deny claims if they find any discrepancies.
  4. Dependence: Dependence on insurance might discourage taking preventive measures.
  5. Fraud Risk: There is a risk of fraud in insurance claims and policies.

What is the Most Important Benefit of Insurance?

The most important benefit of insurance is the peace of mind it offers. Knowing that you or your dependents will receive financial support in the case of an unexpected loss can relieve stress and financial burden.

Is an Insurance an Asset?

Insurance itself is not an asset but a means of protection; however, certain types of life insurance policies can accumulate cash value over time, which can be used as an asset that may be borrowed against or withdrawn.

What is the Conclusion of Insurance?

The conclusion of insurance is that while it represents a significant expense for individuals and businesses, it provides essential protection against potentially catastrophic financial losses. It enables economic stability and continuity by covering unexpected expenses that could otherwise deplete savings or increase debt.

What is Healthy Cover?

Healthy cover typically refers to health insurance coverage that protects against medical expenses like surgeries, hospital stays, and sometimes prescription drugs. It often includes preventive care options, aiming to maintain or improve health before serious conditions develop.

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