This is the first volume of a major two-part history of one of Britain's largest and longest-lived insurance ventures. For much of the nineteenth century Phoenix was the economy's biggest fire office. It pioneered the export of fire insurance and was the most committed insurer of industrial property. Though primarily a business history, the study has much wider implications. Connections between Phoenix's history and that of Britain's industrial economy in its heyday are fully exploited. Insurance records provide windows upon such issues as the wealth embodied in early industrial growth, the patterns of credit available to improving landlords, the investment required for urban expansion, the difficulties of predicting Victorian mortality, and the launching of 'invisible' exports. Much of the treatment is comparative, so the result is a history not simply of one fire office but of a rapidly expanding service industry.