Measure of Wealth

Measure of Wealth: The English Land Tax in Historical Analysis

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 744
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  • Book Info
    Measure of Wealth
    Book Description:

    Ginter focuses on the years 1780 to 1832, a period for which many land tax records survive and precisely when modern forms of political organization began to emerge and when industrialization and enclosure are thought to have altered the fabric of society and the economy. Through an examination of more than 5,000 parishes in fifteen historical counties -- approximately one-third of England -- he shows that inequalities in the burden of national taxation were far greater than anyone has estimated. Having researched both local and national taxation procedures, he reveals that, on the eve of the nineteenth-century "Revolution in Government," the tenantry and yeomanry were administratively far more independent of parliamentary statute and of their local gentry and magistracy than has previously been suggested. Drawing on evidence from the three ridings of Yorkshire, he discloses other problems associated with the land tax duplicates.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6226-4
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. List of Appendices
    (pp. xix-xxiii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiv-xxiv)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  8. Illustrations
    (pp. xxvii-xxxii)
    • CHAPTER ONE The Role of the Land Tax in Historical Analysis
      (pp. 3-10)

      In 1981 Lee Soltow reported on a study of wealth inequalities in England and Wales which had made a staggeringly arduous and novel use of the land tax duplicates, and one which is certain never to be duplicated. He sampled the entire range of 1798 duplicates housed in the Public Record Office, compiling a file of 1,073,000 property entries from all counties. This exquisite display of energy was thanklessly attacked by myself and G.J. Wilson in the pages of theEconomic History Review.¹ What had impressed me most about the Soltow project was the extent to which a careful and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Minor Problems
      (pp. 13-29)

      The land tax duplicates have an appearance of clarity and simplicity. Basically they contain three categories of data, each arranged in a separate column: the name of each proprietor within the township; the names of the occupiers, sometimes described in the duplicates as “tenants,” of each property; and the amount of tax assessed, sometimes broken down only at the level of each proprietor entry, but most often distributed at the level of each occupier. A sizeable proportion of duplicates may contain one or more additional categories of information. For example, a value called “rent” is widely reported in duplicates throughout...

    • CHAPTER THREE Major Problems
      (pp. 30-51)

      Let us now shift our attention to defects or limitations in the land tax duplicates which have seldom been recognized by historians or, if recognized, have been insufficiently discussed and rather pushed to one side. These limitations and ambiguities are, like the defects rehearsed above, to a considerable extent inherent to the structural arrangements for reporting land tax assessments. But unlike the defects cited above, the problems posed by the limitations which we shall now examine are for the most part unresolvable.¹ Only in those isolated instances when supplementary documentation such as estate records are available can the problems even...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Roman Catholic Double Assessment
      (pp. 52-75)

      There are few problems associated with the land tax which are more perplexing or, when they occur, more statistically important than Roman Catholic double assessment. The 1693 act establishing the land tax, and the annual acts for a century thereafter, provided that Catholics be assessed at double the normal rate on their rack rents. Whether Catholics were in fact double assessed throughout the countryside, and what the consequences of double assessment might have been for the non-Catholic properties of the township and county, are questions which have never been systematically investigated. G.J. Wilson is the first modern scholar to have...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Converting Tax Values to Acres
      (pp. 76-104)

      The causes and consequences of the decline of the small owner-occupying farmer were at the centre of one of the great political debates of the later nineteenth century, and the land tax studies of the first half of the twentieth century were the intellectual offspring of that discussion. The debate had always tended to conceptualize the “smallness” of small owner-occupiers in terms of the numbers of acres they had farmed. The pioneers in the use of the land tax – Johnson, Gray, and Davies – inherited the terminology of this debate and formulated their questions in the manner of their...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Mechanisms and Terminology of Rating
      (pp. 107-114)

      The land tax, along with the local rates which it resembled, employed a number of mechanisms that enabled assessors to adjust the burden of the tax. The first, and one which the land tax shared with the county and some earlier national rates, was the assignment of local quotas. County quotas for the land tax had been assigned by statute in 1698, on the basis of valuations employed and purportedly current for the year 1693, and these county quotas remained unchanged through the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.¹ Quotas were further assigned below the county level – to each...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Incidence and Level of Revaluation
      (pp. 115-122)

      Those who wish to use the land tax for historical analysis must recognize and accept a number of constraints arising from the way in which the tax was assessed. The constraints normally mentioned in the literature are those which are due to the quota system described in the preceding chapter. As we have seen, in 1698 the government abandoned any further attempts to levy taxation on real and personal property by a national poundage rate and instead imposed a quota on each county. These county quotas never varied thereafter. The county land tax quotas were in turn subdivided by local...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Impact of Redemption
      (pp. 123-132)

      Everyone who worked with the land tax in the early years of this century noted that flaws had begun to enter the returns following the passage of the 1798 Redemption Act. An increasing number of parishes had, after that date, failed to report redeemed taxes at the level of the occupier. Thus those using the documents to trace secular trends in owner-occupation found their efforts frustrated. Davies put the problem most clearly in his 1927 article:

      In some instances the tax was redeemed and the land immediately disappeared from the returns. Generally speaking, however, all land was included, though in...

    • CHAPTER NINE The Equitability of Assessments within Townships
      (pp. 133-138)

      The most serious charge ever levelled against the land tax is that it was not equitably distributed among the properties of individual townships. Formal charges of internal inequitability have been infrequent. More attention has been given formally to possible inequities between townships, arising principally from the system of ossified quotas. But there has always been a widespread conviction among critics of the land tax, and fear among those who use it, that the land tax was often mismanaged within townships and that some properties were lightly taxed at the expense of others. Moreover, suspicion as to who was villainous by...

    • CHAPTER TEN The Explanation of Inequalities
      (pp. 139-152)

      While the land tax duplicates provide strong evidence that inequalities in assigning the burden of the tax within townships were widespread, they also afford considerable evidence on what classes of property were most affected. Certainly the administrative conditions for manipulation by the gentry were present. It is easy enough to conclude, for example, that the upper level of the land tax administration was wholly in the hands of great landed proprietors. The land tax commissioners, whose names were annually inserted in the statutes authorizing the tax, had come to be nominated by the county Members of Parliament. By 1830 the...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN The National Distribution of the Land Tax Burden: The Traditional Evidence
      (pp. 155-159)

      It has always been believed, both by contemporaries and by recent economic historians, that the land tax quotas assigned to the counties in 1698 fell lightly on the North and West. In the early eighteenth century it was both publicly and privately asserted, even in Cumbria itself, that a 4s. statutory land tax rate probably generated a 9d. actual rate (or a ratio of rent to tax of 26.7:1) in the northwestern counties. Certainly it was then believed that the more western and northerly counties could not have been taxed at an actual rate of more than 1s. in the...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Valuational Rent and Local Poundage Rates in the North Riding of Yorkshire c. 1830
      (pp. 160-170)

      Direct statistical evidence for the local administration of the land tax and for its valuational base may be found in the land tax duplicates in the form of valuational rents. This chapter will undertake a regional investigation of such evidence. The reporting of rents in the duplicates was both erratic and rare before 1826. In the North Riding of Yorkshire, where in this and the following chapter we shall again focus our attention, only a tiny minority of townships reported rents before that date, and they did so irregularly. An opportunity for a broad spatial analysis presents itself during the...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN A Method for Estimating Inequalities in the Regional and National Distribution of the Land Tax: Finding a Maximum Valuation Series
      (pp. 171-200)

      A search for a maximum series of real property values that will measure inter-township and regional differences in the burden of the land tax is governed by two constraints. First, the values must be available for all, or at least a large proportion, of the townships of England and Wales. Documents such as estate records, where accurate accounts of actual rental values may be obtained, are available for only a small and unrepresentative minority of holdings in any region and often do not even include all of the real property of the township within which they lie. They are therefore...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Testing the Maximum Series for Comparability: Spatial Distribution Patterns in the North, East, and West Ridings of Yorkshire
      (pp. 201-247)

      Maximum estimates of tax burden will now be derived by dividing the land tax quota of each township into the total value of its real property as reported on schedule A of the 1815 property tax.¹ The resulting statistic is a ratio of valuation, or “rent,” to tax, low ratios indicating a relatively heavy burden of tax. It is fortunate that the property tax turns out to be the most reliable rental series, because one could scarcely have asked for a better year than 1815 in which to undertake such an analysis, coming as it does precisely at the end...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN The National Distribution of the Land Tax Burden: New Estimates for 1815
      (pp. 248-262)

      There has never been any serious dissent from the view that the burden of the land tax among the counties of England and Wales was from the outset a most unequal one. It has generally been thought, both among contemporaries and by modern historians, that the county quota burdens were lightest in the West and North and heaviest in the southeastern counties. Some have attributed these inequalities to persistent and vigorous efforts by northern and western Members of Parliament. Others have supplemented this political explanation by noting that the distribution of the tax conforms to regional patterns of support either...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN A New Look at the Historiography of Land Tax Studies
      (pp. 265-292)

      Professor Mingay suggested more than twenty years ago that the “detailed investigation of land tax assessments is simply not worth while” when tracing the declining fortunes of the small landowner and the impact of enclosure.¹ It is now time to draw together the conclusions of this study and to assess the extent to which Mingay was correct. Such an assessment must go beyond a consideration of enclosure and smallholder studies, which formed the focus for land tax investigation prior to the 1960s. Land tax studies faltered somewhat during the later 1960s, perhaps due to Mingay’s criticisms, but since the 1970s...

  14. PART SIX Maps
    (pp. 293-334)
  15. PART SEVEN Appendices
    (pp. 335-652)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 653-692)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 693-704)
  18. Index
    (pp. 705-711)