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Introduction: maximising revenues, minimising political costs – challenges in the history of public finance of the early modern period

  • Marjolein 't Hart (a1), Pepijn Brandon (a2) and Rafael Torres Sánchez (a3)
Abstract

Taxation is accepted as a fact of modern life, despite recurring political conflict over the nature and direction of fiscal policies. Most financiers regard obligations issued by the state as a safe investment option. Neither taxation nor state obligations were taken for granted during much of the history of public finance, however, at least not before the early 1800s. The ‘tax state’ developed in fits and starts, driven by the exigencies of warfare, which provided the main rationale for raising state income. Although wartime fiscal innovations eventually facilitated the rise of an efficient military state, the options available for implementing such improvements and preferences for specific fiscal or financial instruments varied greatly across early modern states. Focusing on the ‘long’ eighteenth century, this introduction presents a framework for assessing these differences and introduces the other articles in this special issue.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
M. ’t Hart (corresponding author), Huygens Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185, 1012 DK Amsterdam, The Netherlands; email: m.c.t.hart@vu.nl; marjolein.thart@huygens.knaw.nl; web pages: www.huygens.knaw.nl/t-hart-marjolein/ and https://research.vu.nl/en/persons/marjolein-t-hart.
Footnotes
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Several of the articles collected in this special issue were first presented at the international workshop ‘The Economic Impact of War 1648–1815’, which took place at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study on 4–5 December 2014, and was co-funded by NIAS and Huygens-ING Amsterdam. Further discussion took place at a session with the same title at the XVIIth World Economic History Congress in Kyoto, 3–7 August 2015. Editorial work on the special issue and the work on the introduction were executed with the help of a grant from the Spanish government, ref. HAR 2015-64165-C2-1-P, and an NWO Veni grant, no. 275-53-015. The latter grant also permitted the writing of Brandon's article.

Footnotes
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