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Discussing: Taxation in Middle Earth

Taxation in Middle Earth

How did kings raise revenue in Tolkien's world.?

JRRT fastidiously stays away from discussing money/inheritances/taxation, except with reference to the hobbits (i.e. the Sackville-Bagginses coveting Bilbo's wealth, etc).

Some form of taxation must have existed at least in Gondor at the time of the War of the Ring. Minas Tirith apparently has a large armed force at its disposal. Unless the Steward pays for this personally, it must be funded by taxes. I'll concede that it's possible that every lord of Gondor pays for the upkeep of his own force without imposing taxes or levies. I just find that highly unlikely.

I'm particularly interested in what type of taxation existed in Rohan. Any ideas/thoughts?

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

Hmm..

 Try the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html 

Viking model.  try

 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/norwaytaxes1.html

 The taxes imposed by the King in Norway after the Danish conquest were numerous, and were expected to be paid in kind. Possibly some of them had existed previous to the conquest.

King Sven introduced new laws in many respects into the country, partly after those which were in Denmark, and in part much more severe. No man must leave the country without the king's permission; or if he did, his property fell to the king. Whoever killed a man outright should forfeit all his land and movables. If any one was banished the country, and an heritage fell to him, the king took his inheritance. At Yule every man should pay the king a meal of malt from every harvest steading, and a leg of a three-year-old ox, which was called a friendly gift, together with a spand of butter; and every housewife a rock full of unspun lint, as thick as one could span with the longest fingers of the hand. The bondes were bound to build all the houses the king required upon his farms. Of every seven males one should be taken for the service of war, and reckoning from the fifth year of age; and the outfit of ships should be reckoned in the same proportion. Every man who rowed upon the sea to fish should pay the king five fish as a tax, for the land defense, wherever he might come from. Every ship that went out of the country should have stowage reserved open for the king in the middle of the ship. Every man, foreigner or native, who went to Iceland, should pay a tax to the king. And to all this was added, that Danes should enjoy so much consideration in Norway, that one witness of them should invalidate ten of Northmen.

 This next one is great as it lists the taxes collected by the Kingdom of Jerusalem, very Gondor-ish I think. Too long to list here, but go look at

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/taxesjlem.html 

 There are 77 taxes listed.  For example: 66. On geese which are brought into the city the rule commands that one should take the tenth as duty.

 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/817Capit-aachen.html

Taxable land in the year 817 in Aachen 

In the Capitulary of Aachen there is evidence of a tendency on the part of landholders to evade payment of taxes to the royal treasury. Louis the Pious, therefore, insisted on their payment, but, recognizing that these taxes on land might sometimes be oppressive, he extended his clemency to those unable to pay in full.

C.2. Concerning tributary land. Whoever transfers land, from which taxes are customarily paid to our fisc, so that it falls into the hands of the Church or to another person, he who takes it will pay the tax to our fisc which was paid at the time---unless by chance he has such a charter granted by his lord by which he can show that the tax has been remitted.

C.4. Concerning taxable land. If any one has taxable land which his ancestors gave either to some church or to our villa, he can in no way hold this according to law, unless it is so willed by the one in whose right either the church or villa rests, or unless perchance he is the son or grandson of the one who gave it and wants to hold this land. But it ought to be taken into consideration in this case whether he is rich or poor and whether he has any benefice or other property of his own. And he who has neither of these ought to be accorded mercy, lest despoiled of all, he fall into want, and he shall pay such a tax as was decreed for him or he shall receive some portion in benefice whence he may be able to sustain himself.

 Hope this helps

Gwynnyd (Must. Pay. Taxes.) 

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

Thanks, Gwynnyd!

Any thoughts on how the tax would have been collected, i.e. in coin or in goods? Would the tax have been progressive or regressive?

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth


Any thoughts on how the tax would have been collected, i.e. in coin or in goods? Would the tax have been progressive or regressive?

By big guys on horseback with swords? ;)

I think you get to choose if Rohan has a money economy or not, or uses some mixture. 

 
Well, taxes would probably be collected in every way the monarchy can get away with inside the limits of 'customary and reasonable', but probably mostly in the 'regressive' category.

I'd say, most landed gentry would pay a 'flat rate' every year, determined by custom. They would then turn around and accumulate taxes from their dependents, also at the 'customary' rate.  How much they collected, over and above what was due the king, is not the king's business.

The right to tax goods sold in the towns or imported into the country is a very good source of income.  As is fees collected for registering legal documents, or fines levied for legal  infractions.

 None of these are 'progressive' taxes.  Some merchants might have paid a progressive tax, but I doubt if a landowner did.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

The right to tax goods sold in the towns or imported into the country is a very good source of income. As is fees collected for registering legal documents, or fines levied for legal infractions.

Excellent. That's just the sort of thing I was going for...maybe a market fair even!

Thanks for all the suggestions...

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

Thanks for all the suggestions...

You're welcome! Can't wait for the story.

 
Um, there's a whole Fairs and Markets section in the sourcebook...

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook1j.html#Trade%20and%20Commerce 

I love this quote:

Humbert de Romans, c. 1250: Though markets and fairs are terms often used indiscriminately, there is a difference between them, for fairs deal with larger things and only once in the year, or at least rarely in the same place, and to them come men from afar. But markets are for lesser things, the daily necessaries of life; they are held weekly and only people from near at hand come. Hence markets are usually morally worse than fairs. They are held on feast days, and men miss thereby the divine office and the sermon and even disobey the precept of hearing Mass, and attend these meetings against the Church's commands. Sometimes, too, they are held in graveyards and other holy places. Frequently you will hear men swearing there: "By God I will not give you so much for it," or "By God I will not take a smaller price," or "By God it is not worth so much as that." Sometimes  again the lord is defrauded of market dues, which is perfidy and disloyalty....Sometimes, too, quarrels happen and violent disputes.... Drinking is occasioned.... Christ, you may note, was found in the market-place, for Christ is justice and justice should be there....Thus the legend runs of a man who, entering an abbey, found many devils in the cloister but in the market-place found but one, alone on a high pillar. This filled him with wonder. But it was told him that in the cloister all is arranged to help souls to God, so many devils are required there to induce monks to be led astray, but in the market-place, since each man is a devil to himself, only one other demon suffices.

Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

Any thoughts on how the tax would have been collected, i.e. in coin or in goods?

In the town where I grew up (southern Germany) there is an old barn (built in 1573 as a part of the monastery to which the village - or part of it - belonged) that got restored about twenty years ago. It is called 'Zehntscheuer' (roughly translated to 'barn for the tenths') referring to its former purpose: as a store for taxes to be paid to the monastery. Those taxes were a tenth of the crop of the fields/lands belonging to the monastery, but I don't know whether they took only crop or money as well (they probably wouldn't have said no to the many, though).

Cheers,

fliewatuet

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

You're welcome! Can't wait for the story.

Ah, well...the taxation/market/fair angle is only a very small part of a longish Eomer-as-king fic that I'm currently outlining. We'll see how it turns out.

flie-

Many thanks. I'm guessing the process you describe is the same (or similar) to the process of tithing, where every man gives a tenth of his wealth/income to the Church. I think it's still prevalent today.

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

Thanks for all the suggestions...

Don't forget the ever popular "peace bond".  The king could ask for a sum of money as a 'surety' that his lords would keep the peace.  Fractious lords?  Lord A, pay me a bond of 100 (or a thousand!) units of money to guarantee you won't attack Lord B.  Lord B, the same, so you don't atack Lord A.   The king now has 200 units he can use, and if he's lucky Lords A and B will never make up, or will forfeit their bonds to him by attacking each other, and he will get the money forever. 

This is a slightly later invention, after all you had to have a strong central authority who could enforce it,  but it was quite lucrative in unsettled times.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

I'm guessing the process you describe is the same (or similar) to the process of tithing, where every man gives a tenth of his wealth/income to the Church. I think it's still prevalent today.

Hi roh,

Just to be clear... lifelong church-going Christian here. In the Protestant churches I've belonged to people generally gave 10% of their yearly gross income, though this is more a guideline and how it's given varies widely. Some people think you can count services given to the church as part of the tithe, and others think groups beside the church that promote the church (like religious charities) are fair game.

Theology aside, though, I think historically there are a few important differences. For one, now the tithe is voluntary, but in the past I think it was taken in the form of a tax. Second, historically the tithe was often gifts in kind - 10% of your crop, for instance - whereas today it's usually money.

Oh, and one other thing - the tithe is based on the yearly income, not a man's wealth. FWIW, I think zakat (the Muslim "tithe") is your property.

Marta

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

the tithe is based on the yearly income, not a man's wealth.

Ah, that's interesting. I always assumed it was one or the other (and I concede ignorance regarding Christian theology).

So wealthy individuals who don't derive a traditional income wouldn't tithe then? I'm thinking of someone who only holds capital assets, and doesn't necessarily have an income from services or sales or land transactions/agriculture.

Also, tithing applied only to money/goods given to the Church, right? That is, money/goods you gave to a local lord or baron would not be called "tithe"...

All this info is great, btw! Thanks a lot.

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

So wealthy individuals who don't derive a traditional income wouldn't tithe then? I'm thinking of someone who only holds capital assets, and doesn't necessarily have an income from services or sales or land transactions/agriculture.

 
They would have to pay 10% of their income, regardless of the source.  And there's your progressive tax.

Also, tithing applied only to money/goods given to the Church, right? That is, money/goods you gave to a local lord or baron would not be called "tithe"...

In M-e there is no 'church' to tithe to. If you wanted a progressive tax to the king, I'd think you could call it a tithe and have it be understood.  Feudal dues, on the other hand, are maximum flat fees, negotiated in advance (you give me this amount of land, I'll give you x amount yearly  - usually in kind - in exchange, and also support you in your wars with x amount of men and materials for  x length of time, if you will come to my aid if I'm attacked with x resources.  Feudal relationships were very contractual.) , and have very little to do with actual 'income'.  They are why, when it switched to a money economy, it was important to find alternate sources of income for the crown, such as bonds, fines, customs duties, sales taxes etc.

Offices, such as Sheriff, were actually farmed out.  Lord x would bid x amount for the office, promise to send an additional y amount to the crown per year, and anything over and abvove that that he could collect in fines or fees, he kept.

Cancelling all contracts for kingdom officals and reselling them was a drastic measure, but done by several kings in desperate times when cash money was needed.

Gwynnyd (oh, no, you got me started....) 

 

 

Re: Taxation in Middle Earth

Feudal dues, on the other hand, are maximum flat fees, negotiated in advance

Now that's an interesting concept. And provides lots of story fodder, too.

Cancelling all contracts for kingdom officals and reselling them was a drastic measure, but done by several kings in desperate times when cash money was needed.

That's interesting. One of my story ideas revolves around raising money for the war chest, and maybe I'll incorporate this, or a variation of it.

Thanks!

 

 

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