The concept of taxation and the age of enlightenment

Frecknall Hughes, Jane (2007). The concept of taxation and the age of enlightenment. In: Tiley, John ed. Studies in the History of Tax Law, Volume 2. Oxford: Hart Publishing, pp. 253–286.



The aim of this chapter is to examine how the concept of taxation, as we understand it today, developed from the mass of new ideas that came out of the era known as "The Enlightenment" (c.1688-1800). Such ideas influenced thinking about taxation in England into the nineteenth century particularly, and many remain with us today. The Enlightenment was an age that saw the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the French Revolution (1789), in both of which taxation played a significant part, and which events deeply effected the thinking of English writers of all kinds, whether political, legal, economic or philosophical. During these years the relationship between citizen and government was the particular focus of discussion by writers such as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and Jeremy Bentham. There was also considerable cross-fertilisation of ideas between them and their European and American counterparts.

This chapter is a preliminary examination of the ideas of some of the English, Scottish and Irish writers of the Enlightenment period to reveal contemporary thinking about taxation, and to assess its relevance today, as taxation remains a topic firmly rooted at the heart of that citizen-government relationship.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 25036
  • Item Type
  • Book Section
  • ISBN
  • 1-84113-677-8, 978-1-84113-677-6
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2007 The editor and contributors severally
  • Depositing User
  • Catherine Playle