«Bee war of gyle in borugh». Taxation and Political Discourse in Late Medieval English Towns

Autore: Christian Liddy
In: I libri di Viella. 128

This paper uses the language of taxation to explore the contemporary norms and values of political society in late medieval English towns. On the one hand, notions of popular consent, representation, urgent necessity and the common good, drawing upon the political discourse of state taxation at the national level, were key strands of public debate on taxation in urban communities. On the other hand, there was a distinctively urban fiscal discourse based upon the concept of citizenship. According to the renowned Marxist historian Rodney Hilton, the tax collected in towns by urban oligarchs was the equivalent of the feudal rent owed by the peasantry to rural landlords. Just as there was resistance in the countryside to the payment of rent, so tax revolts were a feature of English towns. However, the values of citizenship were a reflection of a particular urban mode of living and reveal a different pattern of politics in which the payment of tax was not simply a burden but a duty and a right.