Tax Levied In Medieval England  

The fundamental objective of levying taxes in medieval England was accumulation of funds to cater for the needs of the royal class and the government. The chief forms of taxes imposed on people during the Anglo Saxon period include land taxes, custom duties and charges to make coins. Of these, a land tax known as geld was the most important form of tax collection. This form of land tax was collected from 1012 till 1162, and was thereafter substituted by taxes levied on personal property and personal revenue.

Unfortunately, till 597 there is little clarity with respect to the government set up in Britain and the financial systems involved. The law code put forth during the rule of King Æthelberht of Kent is the first explicit revelation of taxation in Anglo Saxon England. This law code clearly illustrates that revenue collected via fines on judicial cases were handed over to the king. Other mentions of taxation are highlighted in the law code of King Ine of Wessex like the division of land into hides that was utilized as means of collecting food and other items by the ruler. During the reign of King Offa of Mercia, trade tax was imposed on the people. Coinage in the form of silver pennies was also introduced during his times, which made the process of tax collection much smoother. This was followed by a period wherein taxes were imposed in order to accumulate revenue to be paid to invaders as a measure of safeguarding one’s domain.

Unlike current times, during the Norman period there was no clear demarcation between the government and the king’s family as far as finances was concerned. During this era, the government earned revenue through the income obtained from the king’s personal land, income obtained by the king as a feudal lord, income via imposition of taxes, and income earned through fines. All revenue records were maintained in the form of pipe rolls on a yearly basis.

Despite there being evidence of prevalence of varied forms of taxation, the geld remained as the key source of taxation, mostly levied at the rate of two shillings for each hide. However, the serfs and slaves were exempted from this form of taxation. With the cessation of geld in 1162 came in a novel form of land tax known as carucage that continued till the year 1224. From 1166 onwards, taxes were also levied on moveable property and income, with the rates varying in times of different rulers. In the year 1202, King John came up with the imposition of custom duty on imported and exported goods. Under the rule of King Henry III, the House of Commons of England was formulated, a body whose consent was mandatory for levying of taxes. However, in the later medieval England, forms of taxation became highly unpopular and many rebelled against their collection.

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Tax Levied In Medieval England




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