Unready kings, burnt silos & community kitties

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach pre-teens about ancient civilizations. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


I'm working on integrating a microfiction story about a smuggler into the worldbuilding for my fantasy universe Verraine, so I had to do a little digging into tax codes in different cultures.

Quick Facts

Labor Tax

The Inca and Maya collected "taxes" by periodically calling up corvée labor forces. The feudal European system was very similar and evolved from the Roman Empire's corvée system, in which tenant farmers and former slaves owed unpaid labor to the local estates. This kind of labor "tax" was often used for infrastructure projects and road repairs.

Land Tax

The English land tax ("geld") started out around 990 CE as tribute money paid to Viking invaders ("gafol" and then later "Danegeld") before Æthelred the Unready (what a name!) turned it into an annual tax used to pay for a standing Scandinavian fleet. Eventually, the kings of England used this tax collection method ("heregeld" or "army-tax") to fund standing armies. It was surprisingly efficient for its era.

Food Tax

One of the major advantages of collecting taxes in the form of surplus food is that when there's a famine due to bad weather or crop failure, government officials can empty the food stores to feed the hungry. Taxation at its best functions as a community kitty.

Subjugation Tax

During Athens' "Empire" period, its citizens didn't really pay taxes. The city's government got its income from its allies in the empire and  immigrants in the city. Their taxes funded the public assembly, juries, and public festivals.

If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my article about unconventional economic systems in scifi & fantasy.


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