has been tripping lightly and brightly on our TV screens for several years
now. Like an engaging, concerned but
rather bossy elder sister she has fronted a few programmes to do with history,
her chosen and professional special trade, see her Wikipedia page and other net
The trouble is
that on TV there has been a relentless shift in many programmes, including
documentaries to lard them with features that are entertainment, personal
interest or sensational. It has become
clear that Lucy has moved with the times.
threesome, that is programmes, has been about Romance with a hint of sex since
1700. Heavily skewed to the upper
classes and their literature along with the high fashion and the rest, the
peasants were off camera and not to be seen or heard of.
like this often the detail of history becomes an option and one not taken,
along with all the complications that were in the life of those times.
Sometimes the result is not only misleading but the reverse of the truth.
In the third
and last of her romantic journey through time, Lucy told us that because before
the 20th the aristocracy did not pay income tax or inheritance tax they just
raked in the rents and spent them, the implication being that they did not pay
tax at all.
This is simply
not merely an error but an untruth. The
history of British taxation is very complicated and because of the difficulties
usually avoided by historians. There is
only so much time and the history of tax needs a very great deal.
So it is not
going to be attempted here. As well as
central government taxes and duties, excise and customs duties there were a
raft of local taxes and obligations, effectively a charge. In the 19th Century and before a great deal of
what is now central was local including the then "welfare" costs of
There is also
the complication of religion. The
aristocracy had many obligations and charges related to the Church of
England. Now we do not regard that as a
tax more as an option. But then it was
regarded as tax to help fund the state church.
George came along after 1908, a dissenting congregation Liberal out to dish the
Tories by destroying one of their financial bases, he targeted the landowners
and aristo's. Income taxes were made
more specific and racked up and a hefty Inheritance tax imposed.
major changes in local taxation arising from the extensive reforms of local
government and essential utilities. It
was understandable that the landowners objected strongly, it was in effect to
them a "double whammy" given the range of outgoings already in place.
Then World War
One in 1914 with its huge costs and subsequent expansion of central government
in the 1920's and later meant there was going to be no relief to the landowners
already trapped in economic decline with the depression in agriculture.
complication which the expert historians do take account of is that the key
income from land was rents. But these
had to be negotiated in terms of what the tenant could pay realistically and
had to take account of local taxation levels arising.
was not taxation as such but was indirectly affected by what levels of local
tax and other obligations were entailed in the tenancies etc. And for a long period rentals were on the way
problem of the time and later, the antics of the Prince of Wales set and their
hanger's on were taken to be the model of the upper classes when out in the
sticks and on the land it was a very different story for most of them.
should try reading some real history rather than romances.