History Tax Anglo Saxons

History of Accounting > Tax History > THE ANGLO-SAXONS

Permanence of many of the Anglo-Saxon institutions. The township, the borough, the hundred and wapentake, and the shire. Consolidation of the royal demesne. The folk land and the feorm fultum. The king lives of his own. The fiscal officers of the shire, hundred and township. Taxes imposed by the Witenagemot. The shipgeld. The danegeld. Fumage.
In the course of the Teutonic settlement in the island and the Anglo-Saxon period that follows, many institutions were established which have a permanent importance in subsequent fiscal history.
In the’ tunscipes’—which originally consisted of the fenced homesteads or farms or villages, surrounded by a tun, or quickset hedge, formed by the immigrant Angles, Jutes and Saxons, when, after preliminary visits for plunder, they returned as adventurers permanently to settle—we have the area of land termed the Township, so frequently mentioned in connection with taxes in after times.
The’ burh’—consisting of a larger township, or a collection of townships, surrounded by a ditch and mound or a wall, in lieu of a tun, formed in positions convenient for trade and commerce under the protecting shelter of a residence of the king or a powerful eorlderman or bishop—is the original of the Borough of after times.
The Hundreds, which continue to this day to be the subdivisions of the county, districts various in size and inclusive of an indefinite number of townships, were so termed as occupied by the groups of a hundred warriors in which the colonists arranged themselves by reference to the pagus of Germania and the hundred warriors it sent to the host; while the WAPENTAKES,1 a name which undoubtedly has reference to the armed gathering of the freemen, were the similar subdivisions of the county in some of the Anglian districts.
Lastly, the Shirks, familiar to us as the existing divisions of the kingdom, trace their origin to the shire system of these times. Some of them, as Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Sussex and Surrey, ancient kingdoms; others, divisions of kingdoms, as Norfolk and Suffolk, of East Anglia; and others, divisions settled in various ways,—they became, after the consolidation of the kingdom of England, established as the primary divisions of the kingdom, including as subdivisions the hundreds or the wapentakes of which they were formed.
In the result of the process by which the kingdom of England was formed, an enormous demesne accrued to the king by means of aggregation. All the kingdoms of the Heptarchy had their royal demesne and folk or public land; and when these kingdoms, through concert and combination to resist the attacks of the Danish pirates, became subjected to a Bretwalda or wielder of Britain, and he, eventually, developed into a permanent king of the whole Anglo-Saxon land, the demesne of the various Heptarehic kings became consolidated, while the folk land, directly subjected to the king as territorial lord, became virtually part of the royal demesne.
1 Sometimes termed, subsequently, cantons, from centum.
In every shire the king received, out of the produce of what had been the folk land contained in the shire, a compensation for his riustentation, termed the ‘ feorin fultum ;’ and with this, and the produce of the demesne and the fines, the king was well able to ‘live of his own.’
In the shire, the scirgerefa or sheriff, who, as a royal officer, was usually nominated by the king, was not only judicial president of the shire and administrator of the law, but also administrator of the royal demesne and guardian of the interests of the king, acting as his bailiff, whence the shire is to this day termed his ‘ bailiwick.’ The hundred gerefa, an officer who became after the Conquest the bailiff of the hundred, represented the king’s interest in fines and the produce of demesne and the folk land in this rateable division of the shire; while the township had its fiscal officer in the tungerefa, who became, after the Conquest, the reeve of the township.
Taxes, when required, were imposed by the ‘ witenagemot,’ or council of wise men; but as regards the details of taxation in Anglo-Saxon times we have no very clear information. We know, however, that the ehire formed the unit of rating, and that on special occasions of imminent peril every shire was required to contribute, in proportion to the number of hundreds it contained, a ship and its equipments for the purpose of naval resistance to the enemy.1 The money collected was termed Shipgeld.
The ferocious pirates of the Northern Sea gave a name to another tax, in the general tax on all lands in the kingdom known as the Danegeld. This was imposed at so much a hide, a measure, formerly considered to have been 100,2 but now put at 120 acres, and the rate varied from Is. to 4s. as the occasion required. First imposed, in 991, on the advice of archbishop Sigeric, in order to bribe away these Scandinavian pirates —’ for the great terror the Danes occasioned on the coast,’ 10,000/. was levied by this means in that year. In 1002, another danegeld, of 24,000/., was levied to bribe away these ferocious followers of the Vikingr or Sea Kings. In 1007, a tribute of 36,000/., levied in the same manner, was paid to the hostile army; in 1012, 48.000/., and in 1018, no less than 72,000/.3
Originally levied for tribute, the danegeld was subsequently, after the cessation of the Danish invasions, continued and collected as revenue by the king, sometimes under the specious pretext of an expected attack. It was very unpopular and difficult to collect,4 and on one occasion of a levy, in 1041, when Harthacnut used the house-carles or thing-men, his paid military force, to collect a danegeld, their oppressive conduct led to resistance in Worcestershire and the slaughter of some of them, and in the result to the memorable spoliation of Worcester by royal command. The tax was abolished by Edward the Confessor, but subsequently was revived by the Norman kings after the Conquest.
1 Freeman, Norm. Oonq. i. 336 et seq., and note LL.
“Hida a primitiva institutione ex centum acris conatat. Dial, de Scacc. i. 17.
* Chron. Sax. A.d. 991, 1002,1007, and 1018. In this last year, London paid, in addition, 10,500A
4 Dial de Scacc. i. 11.
A Fumage, or tax of smoke farthings, or hearth tax, a kind of tax usually to be found among the fiscal traditions of communities in remote times, ranges among those of the Anglo-Saxon period. Such a tax is mentioned subsequently in Doomsday Book. It seems to have been a customary payment to the king for every hearth in all houses except those of the poor.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Enter you Email and Win!

Sign up for our drawing for an Apple IPhone to help you organize your business contacts, calendar events, and more, by subscribing to our periodic newsletter. Simply add your email below and you will be enrolled. We will never, ever sell or spam your email, and you can cancel at any time!

Cite this page:

Contribute meaningful comments to the Accounting community...