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Fiscal Innovations in Early Modern States: Which War did Really Matter in the Portuguese Case?


  • Leonor Freire Costa


Throughout the Early Modern times, European dynastic states started a long-term process towards the building of a territorial organization, depending on increasing revenues and creating its own self-sustaining logics. Different solutions were found to face expenditures; hence different paths to fiscal efficiency came up. This paper brings up the Portuguese case to add new issues to the debate of the factors for fiscal innovation and political-military efficiency in Early Modern times. Prior to the Spanish Secession war, the Portuguese state had faced the Spanish armies in the 14th century and again in the 17th century. Both wars triggered fiscal innovations, shaping the Portuguese fiscal system for centuries afterwards. Taking as benchmarks 1580 and 1680, this paper questions the choice for an income tax precisely at a time when excises were being generalized in North-western Europe. It makes an assessment of state revenues and of the role of this income tax (décima) on a comparative approach. The endurance of décima, as had happened to medieval excises, will be questioned taking into account cost-benefit considerations, regarding the costs (economic and political issues) of any change in collection and assessment. It will be argued that there are good examples of fiscal innovation in the Portuguese case. However, the importance of fiscal innovation for the process of state making and financial modernization may be overestimated just where institutional rigidities had subverted its potentials.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonor Freire Costa, 2009. "Fiscal Innovations in Early Modern States: Which War did Really Matter in the Portuguese Case?," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2009/40, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
  • Handle: RePEc:ise:gheswp:wp402009

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    1. Jorge Braga de Macedo & Álvaro Ferreira da Silva & Rita Martins de Sousa, 2000. "War, Taxes and Gold: The inheritance of the Real," Working Papers Department of Economics 2000/08, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    2. Ames, Edward & Rapp, Richard T., 1977. "The Birth and Death of Taxes: A Hypothesis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(1), pages 161-178, March.
    3. J.V. Beckett & Michael Turner, 1990. "Taxation and economic growth in eighteenth-century England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 43(3), pages 377-403, August.
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    Modern State; public finance; taxes. JEL classification : H11; N44.;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government


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