Pedro de Santarém (Petrus Santerna Lusitanus)

Lived between

1460 – 1521 (61 years old)




Jurisconsult and Diplomat

Although there is few biographical information about this distinguished  portuguese thinker from the 15th / 16th centuries, it is supposed that he was born in Santarém, whose name Petrus Santerna Lusitanus he later adopted.

He lived during the reign of King Dom Manuel I (1469-1521), by whom he was appointed Portugal’s business agent (a position then equivalent to that of Consul) in Florence, Pisa, and Livorno.

It’s highly likely that he was a new-christian (converted jew). There was many new-christians in Florence and Livorno. Among them, besides the merchants, there were distinguished figures such as Amato Lusitano (doctor) and Diogo Pires (literate), with whom Pedro de Santarém was close to.

Pedro de Santarém was one of the most brilliant portuguese thinkers of the 16th century, having been a pioneer in insurance theorizing. In 1488, he wrote the manuscript of Tratactus Perutilis et Quotidianus de Assecurationibus et Sponsionibus Mercatorum, the first systematic legal study on marine insurance, already containing specific references to the relationship between risk and premium, concepts that are still used nowadays, even in relation to other insurances.

The treaty was drafted to discuss current cases in the maritime cities of Lisbon, Venice, Ancona, Naples, and Genoa. It deals with the risk, the mercantile custom, the fair price, the purposes, and legitimacy of traders’ conventions and promises, which in ordinary language were called bets.

The 1st edition of the book took place in 1552, in Venice. After this publication, the treaty was reprinted several times, in Venice, Antwerp, Lugduni, Rome, and Cologne, with 15 reissues being known, even in the 16th century, which attests the importance of the work.

The success of Pedro Santerna’s book is explained by its pioneering character and because, at a time when the practice of insurance was becoming widespread, there was no jurisprudence or doctrine that could serve as a basis for the discussion and decision of claims.

In Portugal, except for a few references by some intellectuals, the author and his work were only be truly rescued from oblivion at the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the efforts of the illustrious academic Moses Bensabat Amzalak who, in 1914, published a leaflet with bibliographical notes on Pedro Santerna. Later, he would write numerous articles and participate in several conferences, including french and english universities.

Amzalak was the author of the 1st edition of the treaty, in portuguese, which was published in 1958, in a separate volume of the annals of ISCEF – Instituto Superior Ciências Económicas e Financeiras, with a translation from latin by Prof. Manuel Pinto de Meneses.

The 2nd edition was published in 1961 by the Grémio dos Seguradores, on the meeting in Lisbon of the Annual Conference of the International Maritime Insurance Union. In 1971, also on the initiative of the Grémio dos Seguradores, the 3rd edition was published, with versions in portuguese, french and english.

In 1988, Mundial-Confiança published a commemorative edition of the 75th anniversary of the insurance company, with versions in portuguese and french and a preface by Prof. José Hermano Saraiva.

In 2007, an edition was published by ISP-Instituto de Seguros de Portugal, on the 1st centenary of Insurance Supervision.

The APS-Associação Portuguesa de Seguradores, in 2018, publishes an edition of “Tratado de Seguros de Pedro de Santarém”.