By Donald E. Ginter
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Extra info for A Measure of Wealth: The English Land Tax in Historical Analysis
And what could be more serendipitous than this systematic documentation covering precisely the period when virtually all moral critics of the decline claimed this decline occurred, namely, during the years 1780 to 1832, when the "factory system" was most intensively penetrating the countryside and parliamentary enclosure, the nefarious instrument of that exploitation, was at its height? The land tax as a source of historical investigation has thus remained throughout this century the most important documentation on questions that are at the heart of our most heated and sophisticated academic and political debates.
In most agricultural townships where tithes are identifiable they probably constituted between 5 and 10 percent of the taxable value by the end of the eighteenth century. 1). In counting acres, then, it is clear that tithes should somehow be excluded. But can they be? Certainly they cannot be excluded systematically in all townships. It is simply incorrect to suggest, as Hunt does, that all clerical proprietor entries represent tithes. Some clergymen were also independently wealthy and held vast estates, and innumberable small holdings, as many duplicates make abundantly clear.
Wordsworth, describing the Lake District, praised its former inhabitants and wrote: "Till within the last sixty years, towards the head of these dales was found a perfect republic of shepherds and agriculturalists, among whom the plough of each man was confined to the maintenance of his own family or to the occasional accommodation of his neighbour. Two or three cows furnished each family with milk and cheese... Neither high-born nobleman, knight, nor esquire, was here, but many of these humble sons of the hills had a consciousness that the lands which they walked over and tilled had for more than five hundred years been possessed by men of their name and blood.