By Donald E. Ginter
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Extra info for A Measure of Wealth: The English Land Tax in Historical Analysis
Valuations of landed property were popularly acceptable because land could be seen. It was open to public view, and there was much accurate local knowledge regarding its relative (if not its absolute or marketable) value. But to place a valuation on personal and moveable wealth required an inquisitional structure which smacked of French despotism, intruded on the rights of private enjoyment of property, and was abhorrent to the instincts of freeborn Englishmen. Nevertheless there were many notable exceptions to the evasion of personal property from land tax assessment.
Most believed that fundamental alterations had occurred in this distribution within the last one hundred years, culminating a longer historical process. In particular, an entire peasant culture based on small, independent family-owned farms and open commons was thought to have given way to an agricultural society characterized by large, capitalist market-oriented farmers and, consequently, that most of the land had become concentrated to an unprecedented degree into the hands of a landed elite and their larger dependent tenantry.
4 It is questionable whether such large tenant farmers should 17 Minor Problems find their way into counts of declining owner-occupiers. Owner-occupation was not their primary characteristic. Nor were they small holders, except (misleadingly) as proprietors. It is inevitable that landholding categories be employed in such studies, but the categories must be filled by line entry counts that take fully into account the complexities of the farming community. 5 Without elaborating any further examples, it is perhaps sufficiently clear that linking names within or between land tax duplicates poses procedural problems which are severe and which bear substantial consequences.