Taxation in England during the late medieval period

Jan 2019
11
York, UK
#1
Hi

I live in a small village established in around 1150 by St Mary's Abbey York. Our History Group are about to start writing a publication which will try to bring to life the village from 1150 until 1485. As its Lord was an ecclesiastical one would it be taxed in the same way as a village of a secular Lord?
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,934
Dispargum
#2
Medieval taxation generally did not vary between secular vs ecclesiastical lords. There were probably a variety of taxes. Prior to the Black Death the most onerous tax was the feudal dues that serfs owed to their landlords in exchange for the right to work the lord's land. These dues might be paid as a portion of the serf's harvest but were more likely paid in the form of labor. Each serf had to work a certain number of days helping to bring in the harvest on the lord's domain lands instead of the serf being free to work on his own land he was renting from the lord. Other taxes included the fee paid at the lord's mill to grind grain into flour. Other services that the lord provided also came with fees, and the laws usually made it illegal for the serfs to avoid the fees by going somewhere else for the same service. Any type of court procedure such as settling an estate, usually came with a fee to cover court costs. Anything that a serf needed his lord to provide usually came with a fee or tax. Road and bridge tolls were so common they could stifle trade.

After the Black Death the old system of Medieval feudalism began to break down. Feudal obligations came to be replaced by cash rents. Here's a document that describes a peasant changing his obligations to his ecclesiastical lord from one of labor to one of cash rent. It's a little early (1278). Most serfs did not become renters until after 1350 or so, but it gives some insight into the landlord-tenant relationship during the 13th century.
Internet History Sourcebooks Project
 
Jan 2019
11
York, UK
#3
"Medieval taxation generally did not vary between secular vs ecclesiastical lords. There were probably a variety of taxes"
I assume the last seven words refer to after/before the Black Death
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,745
#4
I am afraid I only know how they were collected by around the latter 12th century of the Kingdom of England.
They were collected to include roughly all profits and then some by this guy:
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,934
Dispargum
#6
"Medieval taxation generally did not vary between secular vs ecclesiastical lords. There were probably a variety of taxes"
I assume the last seven words refer to after/before the Black Death
There were a variety of taxes both before and after the Black Death. The only thing the Black Death changed was the form of the tax. Labor and payment in kind was replaced by cash payments. For all the great variety of taxes, the total tax paid was probably less than today's taxes, as a percentage of income. The lord also provided fewer services, for instance, there was no national health insurance back then.
 
Likes: Rodger

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,934
Dispargum
#9
If you're asking, 'Did religious manors tax their serfs less than secular manors?' I would say no. My sense is that churches did not pass the collection plate in the Middle Ages. Most Church income was derived from rent charged to serfs. Rest assured, the Church lived well and vigorously defended its rights and privileges. The stereotypical fat monk has a basis in fact. The Church had more income than it knew what to do with so they ate a lot of calories. Skeletons exhumed from monastic cemmetaries reveal that most monks were overweight. It probably never occurred to anyone to reduce the rent. That would spoil the peasants. They would just fritter away that extra income in sinful pursuits, or so thought the Church. This is why Francis of Assisi started the Franciscan order - to get back to the 'virtue in poverty' ideal of the early Church, but he only had limited success.
 
Likes: Rodger

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,588
#10
If you're asking, 'Did religious manors tax their serfs less than secular manors?' I would say no. My sense is that churches did not pass the collection plate in the Middle Ages. Most Church income was derived from rent charged to serfs. Rest assured, the Church lived well and vigorously defended its rights and privileges. The stereotypical fat monk has a basis in fact. The Church had more income than it knew what to do with so they ate a lot of calories. Skeletons exhumed from monastic cemmetaries reveal that most monks were overweight. It probably never occurred to anyone to reduce the rent. That would spoil the peasants. They would just fritter away that extra income in sinful pursuits, or so thought the Church. This is why Francis of Assisi started the Franciscan order - to get back to the 'virtue in poverty' ideal of the early Church, but he only had limited success.
I am pretty sure there were some vigorous fights when some monasteries did try to reduce the rents with people clamouring to be tenants and nearby lords claiming serfs were fleeing their lands to work more cheaply for the monks. I have definitely read of a couple such examples somewhere around the Low Countries and N Central France but I can't think of one in England but I would be very surprised to find much widespread intentions to reduce rents or increase tenants rights in the mentioned time period. Franciscans were actively hated by many other orders and often the Catholic bureaucracy tired to limit the establishment of new Franciscan holdings but they proved so popular and also it was noticed that the education provided was useful and eventually attitudes changed.
 

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