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The fiscal constitution of later medieval England: the reign of Henry VI

Brayson, Alex (2013) The fiscal constitution of later medieval England: the reign of Henry VI. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis is an examination of the constitutional framework of public finance during the reign of Henry VI, prior to the ‘Wars of the Roses’. Its central theme is that the governments of Henry VI’s minority and majority rule could not transcend the parameters of scholastic fiscal theory and negotiate generous lay tax grants as a means of effectively financing the Hundred Years’ War after the Treaty of Troyes and expansive permanent charges. Parliament preferred to grant low levels of lay taxation, the payment of which was spread out over lengthy time periods, and attempt to increase public revenue by alternative means, namely the granting of novel indirect taxes on aliens and alien poll taxes, and the underwriting of large–scale loans. In financial terms this strategy failed, and led to increasing problems at the exchequer. Despite notable efforts to efficiently bring in lay tax revenue and manage creditors, a rising tide of government debt characterised the 1430s and 1440s. The only means of effectively resolving this fiscal crisis was through parliament’s granting of a higher level of lay taxation, which the Commons resolutely opposed. Henry VI’s apparent absence from the politics of his majority regime during the mid–to–late 1440s made it more difficult for the government to secure the necessary level of lay taxation, though this was not, as most mid–to–late twentieth century historians believed, the root cause of the unprecedented royal debt of £372,000, declared at the parliament of November 1449. This lay in the long–term failure of the later medieval fiscal constitution to adapt to changing fiscal circumstances and provide the late Lancastrian government with the level of supply necessary to prevent a protracted financial crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.595066
Depositing User: Alex Brayson
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 16:48
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:30
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4989

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