Ekwall, Eilbert, Two Early London Subsidy Rolls (Lund, C.W.K. Gleerup) Read this source online
Text name(s): London Subsidy Rolls
Number of pages of primary source text: 220
Dates: 1216 - 1319
Archival Reference: TNA E179/144/2 and E179/144/3
- English - Middle English
- Translated into English.
- Taxes - Lay Subsidy
- Material Culture: Food, Clothing, Household
- Towns / Cities
The lay subsidies of medieval England were income taxes which assessed personal property. The wealth of every adult was assessed and, if found to be over a certain amount, taxed a fraction of the total. The records of the lay subsidies, therefore, acted as a census of taxpayers, but many peasants, women and servants, whose wealth did not meet the minimum requirement, were not recorded. The subsidy rolls list the name of each taxpayer and the amount they paid. Ekwall includes extensive notes on nearly every individual, cross-referencing other medieval documents in which each person can be found. The book incldes an appendix of occupational words or surnames, indexes of taxpayers (a separate index for each subsidy), bibliographies, an index of wards, and a list of facsimiles.
The entire book, including all notes and apparatus, can be found on the British History Online website.
The introduction (136 pp.) opens with a description of the manuscripts in which the London lay subsidies were recorded. Ekwall then discusses when and how the subsidies were collected, and some of the oddities of the subsidy rolls. He then discusses the language of the rolls: the language is not straightforward, since these are mathematical and not narrative documents. They were recorded in a combination of Latin, English, and French. Ekwall examines the common names found in the documents and their nationalities. He then focuses on what the subsidies can show us about the population of London: immigration, population statistics, and occupations. He discusses who was taxed and how. The introduction ends with a discussion of editorial method and the goals of his commentary on the text. The commentary’s main object is to identify the taxpayers and throw light on their occupation and status.