To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The Parliamentary Subsidy on Knights' Fees and Incomes of 1431: A Study on the Fiscal Administration of an Abortive English Tax Experiment

Research in Economic History

ISBN: 978-1-80071-880-7, eISBN: 978-1-80071-879-1

Publication date: 30 September 2021


The experimental parliamentary subsidy on knights' fees and freehold incomes from lands and rents of 1431 was the only English direct lay tax of the Middle Ages which broke down. As such, this subsidy has a clear historiographical significance, yet previous scholars have tended to overlook it on the grounds that parliament's annulment act of 1432 mandated the destruction of all fiscal administrative evidence. Many county assessments from 1431–1432 do, however, survive and are examined for the first time in this article as part of a detailed assessment of the fiscal and administrative context of the knights' fees and incomes tax. This impost constituted a royal response to excess expenditures associated with Henry VI's “Coronation Expedition” of 1429–1431, the scale of which marked a decisive break from the fiscal-military strategy of the 1420s. Widespread confusion regarding whether taxpayers ought to pay the feudal or the non-feudal component of the 1431 subsidy characterized its botched administration. Industrial scale under-assessment, moreover, emerged as a serious problem. Officials' attempts to provide a measure of fiscal compensation by unlawfully double-assessing many taxpayers served to increase administrative confusion and resulted in parliament's annulment act of 1432. This had serious consequences for the crown's finances, since the regime was saddled with budgetary and debt problems which would ultimately undermine the solvency of the Lancastrian state.




I would like to thank the REH co-editor Prof. S. Wolcott for her prompt editorial support, and the anonymous peer reviewer for detailed and very constructive suggestions. I owe a particular debt of gratitude to the late Prof. W. M. Ormrod, who encouraged me to write on the 1431 abortive tax and gave generously of his time, reading and commenting on an earlier draft of this piece in full. This article is dedicated to his memory.


Brayson, A. (2021), "The Parliamentary Subsidy on Knights' Fees and Incomes of 1431: A Study on the Fiscal Administration of an Abortive English Tax Experiment", Hanes, C. and Wolcott, S. (Ed.) Research in Economic History (Research in Economic History, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 41-88.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 by Emerald Publishing Limited