The unpopularity of the hearth tax and the social geography of London in 1666

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    This article presents a new evaluation of the Restoration hearth tax and the social geography of London, first, by comparing the 1666 London hearth tax return with unpublished collectors’ accounts; second, by analysing the huge amount of extraneous data in these records on the social conditions in London; and third, by considering how different forms of tax avoidance and tax evasion operated on the streets of London. The article discusses wealth distribution by location and social status, and shows how privileged groups used diplomatic, ecclesiastical, and military rank to avoid the hearth tax, while ordinary householders turned to doorstep opposition, especially in the outer and poorer suburbs, in expressing their hostility towards the heath tax. The article demonstrates that in Metropolitan London the assessment and collection
    of the hearth tax depended not only upon the enforcement of the parliamentary
    legislation, but also upon negotiation and give-and-take between tax collectors and tax payers, sometimes in consultation with the Crown. As a result the hearth tax failed to fill the king’s purse, was unpopular in the capital and in the country, and created onerous work for both auditors and hearth tax collectors, which contributed to the short life of the hearth tax (1662–89).

    © 2016, Economic History Society. The attached document (embargoed until 20/11/2018) is an author produced version of a paper published in Econonic History Review, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)452-482
    Number of pages30
    JournalThe Economic History Review
    Issue number2
    Early online date20 Nov 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


    • Restoration
    • taxation
    • London
    • fiscal state
    • hearth tax
    • social geography

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