History of Taxes in Ancient Britain Under the Romans

History of Accounting > Tax History > Ancient Britain & Roman Rule

BEFORE THE NORMAN CONQUEST.
ANCIENT BRITAIN AND BRITAIN UNDER THE ROMANS.
THE ANGLO-SAXONS.

No traces of taxes in Ancient Britain. Roman taxes in Britain. Levies in kind. Difficulty of cartage. The scriptura. Poll taxes. Departure of the Romans. Total abolition of all Roman institutions.
Ancient Britain may be regarded as beyond the range of fiscal history. If anything resembling taxation in our modern sense of the term existed, there are no traces of its existence; nor does any institution of any interest in relation to taxes date from those times. It is probable that the princes and chiefs of the people maintained themselves and their followers on the produce of their possessions in land and their cattle, supplemented by contributions in kind from their subjects and any plunder they could gather from their enemies in war.
In Britain under the Eomans, taxes were imposed according to the usual practice of the Eomans in taxing the provinces, which was, not to follow any general rule, but to apply in the different countries under their sway such taxes as seemed to them suited to the particular country at the time. Accordingly, in Britain, where money was scarce, many of their taxes were levies in kind, consisting of a certain portion of the produce of lands, usually a tenth. This they required to be delivered at the fiscal granary or barn. Distance of transit and the bad state of the roads often rendered the cartage of the produce a tax more severely felt than the tribute itself; and accordingly the complaints regarding these taxes in kind were directed mainly against the inconvenience and difficulty of transport.
The principal property of the inhabitants consisted of flocks and herds, for the Britons lived mainly on flesh and milk—’ pecorum magnus numerus,’ writes Caesar, and ‘lacte et carue vivunt.’ These the Romans taxed at so much a head, by means of a tax termed Scriptura from the inscription of the number of head of cattle in the roll of the tax-gatherer. In order to pay the scriptura, the owner of the cattle, if he had no money, was compelled to sell cattle or to have recourse to the Roman usurer on his own exorbitant terms. In this consisted the principal objection to the tax; as it was also to the poll tax on individuals, capitatio humana, another tax which on occasion was levied on the Britons.
Taxes in kind, the scriptura and poll taxes were probably the principal taxes used in Britain by the Eomans; though we have no very clear information as regards the exactions to which the inhabitants were subjected at their hands. Taxes appear to have formed one of the causes of the revolt of the Iceni, and are mentioned as oppressive in the harangue of Boadicea to her forces before the battle with Suetonius; but there is no good reason to think that taxation was carried in Britain to the extreme point it reached in Gaul.
The subject of Roman taxation, though of considerable interest in connection with the taxes imposed in this country at a later period, when our chancellors of the exchequer copied freely from the Eoman list, is comparatively of little interest in relation to ancient Britain. For when the inroads of the northern barbarians compelled the Romans to withdraw their legions from the distant provinces in order to protect the vital parts of the empire, the arts of peace as well as those of war vanished from Britain with the triremes, which conveyed away not only the consul and the legions but also the procurator, susceptores, exactores, and, in short, all the staff of tax assessors and collectors and their institutions.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (2 votes cast)
History of Taxes in Ancient Britain Under the Romans, 2.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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...