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This book provides a thorough review of early English land taxes of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It is a polemical work which is critical of the institutional English state narratives including Brewer’s ‘Sinews of Power’ and North and Weingast’s ‘credible commitment’ and some established works in the field particularly Ward’s ‘The English Land Tax in the Eighteenth-Century’ which is subject to a highly detailed critique. The book proposes that although this was a time of tension, with an English population divided by political and religious affiliations, unprecedented amounts of taxation were still collected. This was achieved by ceding immediate process ownership to local governors whilst arming them with clear success criteria, well-designed processes and innovative legislation targeted on a growing and commercialized economy. An important development was the state’s increasing ability to coordinate tax-gathering activities across the country. This book will be of interest to financial historians, academics, and researchers.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Historical narratives focusing on the institutions and bureaucracy of the English state, together with some flawed but well-established fiscal texts, have obscured the origins, chronology and success of English land taxes. This book attempts to rehabilitate land taxes in the growth of the English state. Part of the answer to this challenge is to look in the right places. Central state records are sparse because land taxes were administered locally in counties, cities, towns and parishes. Three case studies were chosen because of the good survival of their local tax records and their heavy fiscal burdens: rural Kent and the cities of London and Bristol. England’s avoidance of significant military engagement for decades prior to the Civil War meant the state was sparsely funded by outdated and declining traditional taxes despite the country’s increasing wealth. A series of seventeenth-century military conflicts required new sources of funding, and fresh levies were designed to meet this demand. Land taxes, excise and reformed customs were deployed which could tap into the wealth of the developing English economy and successfully fund civil wars, trade wars and continental conflicts over the next 70 years.
Stephen Pierpoint

Chapter 2. Legislation for a New Tax on Land

Abstract
This book goes further than previous authors in arguing that English land taxes were invented in the 1640s even if statutes used the term ‘assessment’. Contemporaries knew them as land taxes and they continued to be levied in England until 1963. Indeed the main innovative features of land taxes were created in the decade after 1643 by legislators aided by feedback loops from local administrators in the English regions. The result was effective taxation that could effectively target income from a developing English economy principally from land and included innovations around: clear deadlines, fixed tax quotas, enforcement, logistics, and process. The importance of the exploitation of monetary flows from production and around financial cycles was vital to the success of the early land taxes, in a period when physical cash was scarce.
Stephen Pierpoint

Chapter 3. Fiscal Innovation and Local Response 1643–1680

Abstract
The distinctive response to parliamentary legislation in the three case study areas is described as local administrators created solutions that would work in each area. There are common features including delegation to local sub-teams, administrative delayering, the deployment and empowerment of officials with greater experience and the greater use of the transfer of monies in paper form rather than coin. Traditional administrative roles including mayors, sheriffs, aldermen and justices of the peace were now populated by those doing well from a growing English economy. These men were appointed the chief administrators of the new levies and if they had to pay more tax, they would at least have a degree of process ownership and control.
Stephen Pierpoint

Chapter 4. After the Glorious Revolution

Abstract
Land tax burdens became even heavier and more permanent after 1688 as England became embroiled in continental conflict. There was much fiscal experimentation, but land tax, customs and excise were the dominant fiscal forces. Urban areas and the South and East of England took more than their fair share of fiscal weight. The challenge of successful land tax collection was met by a range of solutions created centrally and locally to meet these new demands. There was improved central stakeholder oversight, increased administrative resourcing, the deployment of more experienced personnel, increased delegation, simplification, flexibility, and a more careful choice of taxpayers. Why charge those who could not afford to pay or least likely to be there when the tax collector called? Most of the administrative burden was now delegated to long-serving paid officials who had appropriate skills and capabilities. They were overseen by an increasingly experienced body of senior tax commissioners.
Stephen Pierpoint

Chapter 5. Four Detailed Examples of Post-Revolutionary Administrative Improvement and Resilience

Abstract
The period after the 1688 Revolution is often seen as one of the administrative declines for land taxes. This chapter challenges that judgement. It provides fresh data and analysis that contradicts established historiological narratives and questions the evidence presented in traditional texts around the effectiveness of early eighteenth-century land tax. In four detailed exemplary studies, this chapter shows that some areas of land tax administration that have often been seen as signs of weakness were in fact areas of considerable strength. Land tax processes did not work because they were complicated, requiring constant adjustment and intervention, they worked because they were sufficiently simplified but well-resourced to create an annually repeatable and resilient routine. Further evidence is presented from the three case study areas of ways in which processes were simplified and improved in the early eighteenth century as experienced officials coordinated their actions across county, city and nation.
Stephen Pierpoint

Chapter 6. Conclusion

Abstract
It is time to rethink land taxes. They were the most significant of all English taxes until the early eighteenth century and remained prominent for decades thereafter. The success of these taxes runs counter to models of an English state successful in war and at home because it was becoming more institutionalised and bureaucratic. Land taxes were successful because they were well designed to exploit cashflows from England’s growing wealth, had strong processes and could rely on the services of tens of thousands of skilled, capable and committed men up and down the land to collect them.
Stephen Pierpoint

Backmatter

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