History

Background

The Aviva Group archive is acknowledged as the most important insurance industry archive in the UK. The archive contains holdings that date back over 300 years and cover every area of the business through more than 650 constituent companies.

The group archive was established in November 2000 and is still in the process of being catalogued. This work is helping us to chart the development of the insurance industry. We have been able to trace our presence back to 1696 and have found Aviva constituent companies operating in almost every area of insurance and all over the world.

Archive holdings

We hold statutory records, minute books, annual reports, returns to the board of trade, registers of directors and secretaries, share registers, registers of transfer, financial records, journals, ledgers, cash books, balance papers, valuation books, policies, promotional material, photographs, staff records and more.

The records cover all our major constituents: General Accident, Commercial Union, Norwich Union, Yorkshire, Northern, North British & Mercantile, Scottish Union and National, as well as hundreds of our smaller constituents from all around the world.

The archive includes some items of particular historical significance including a life policy taken out by Sir Walter Scott. Another good example is a stunning Chinese ceremonial parasol. This was given to the Managing Director of General Accident when he visited the Shanghai branch in 1929. It is considered by experts to be the oldest example of its type anywhere in the world.

The archive also holds many evocative images of overseas branches, examples of specialist policy literature and booklets outlining the different challenges staff faced in these new markets with previously unknown risks such as hurricanes, monsoons and earthquakes.

On this site you can get a glimpse of the wealth and depth of information and objects that we have. For specific enquiries, please contact our group archivists, who will be happy to assist you.

Why was the archive created?

The archive exists to preserve and make available historical material relating to companies within the Aviva group. By cataloguing material collected by the various constituent companies we create an important and unique resource for Aviva staff and customers. This resource tells the story of hundreds of companies the majority of which have no published histories. It also chronicles the development of the insurance industry.

Who is the archive for?

The depth and diversity of the information contained within the archive means that it has wide-ranging appeal.

Local, family and social historians

Many documents containing information of interest to historians have been retained. Of particular interest to family historians are staff records and early customer records some of which even give information on date of birth and address of 19th century policy holders.

For local historians the records, particularly of the provincial and Scottish based companies, show the development of the local economy and include information on local dignitaries and the local customer base.

The collections also record the changing world in which the companies operated reflecting every aspect of social, political and economic history.

Stories of war time heroism are included along side disasters which shaped changes in laws and attitudes and references to events such as royal weddings, and the gold rush. The accident branch of insurance in particular was constantly evolving to offer the cover customers required and reflects technological developments such as the introduction of television and of nuclear power.

Business and economic historians

The archive charts the development of the insurance industry over the past 300 years. The large number of companies represented also allows enormous scope for comparative studies on how different organisations grew and how they operated.

People tracing an old policy

The Aviva Group is made up of a vast number of companies from around the world that have been acquired and merged together over time. Many policy documents still exist under the names of companies that no longer exist in their own right.

If you are trying to trace an old insurance policy from one of our constituent companies, this website provides a wealth of information on the background of many of these companies and their incorporation into the Aviva Group.

Aviva Group employees

The archive reflects the way the past members of staff have shaped the company we run today. As a group we are heir to the oldest mutual life insurer, one of the oldest fire insurers, the first company to issue a burglary policy, and the first and only insurance company to hold a royal warrant. The Aviva archive is a resource for Aviva Group employees past and present to learn about the company’s heritage and to find out more about how the business has changed and developed to become the company it is today.

View our archive access policy