Ian Henderson

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




P.S. Fritz


Modern wars can be financed by two methods, debt and taxes. Throughout the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British sought to fund their wars by a mixture of the two, developing a sophisticated method of contracting and redeeming the national debt. The wars which Britain fought against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France during the period 1793-1815 were of unparalleled expense. To meet these costs, the British borrowed more heavily, and taxed themselves at a greater rate, than ever before in modern history. The most notable example of the increased tax burdens was the property tax, first introduced by the Younger Pitt in 1798, and renewed in 1803, following the collapse of the 1802 Treaty of Amiens.

The tax was detested by those required to pay it. While willing to bear heavy levels of wartime taxation to deliver themselves from Bonaparte's tyranny, they objected to the nature of this tax. They felt it to be 'inquisitorial' and 'inequitable.' At the end of the war, they twice opposed its continuation, and were aided in this by the newspaper press. This thesis focuses upon that protest, delineating the arguments against the tax, and showing the protest to have been widespread. While some historians have seen this protest as orchestrated and incited by the Whig party, it is revealed here as a much more spontaneous and undirected phenomenon.

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