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Eighteenth-century England experienced huge social, economic, and fiscal pressures from the dramatic expansion of public spending which was needed to fund the state’s participation in many wars. Taxes on consumption and property, imposed to fund the cost of warfare, necessitated the development of tax gathering systems intervening at the heart of local communities across England. Punitive and escalating rates of taxation on highly desirable commodities created an opportunity for skilful entrepreneurs to profit from smuggling large quantities of illicit, untaxed goods, including wine, brandy, tea, and silks.. In so doing they transgressed de-jure definitions of state sovereignty by supplying their networks from Britain’s European rivals.
Operating alongside tax gathering in local communities, systems developed to collect and remit smuggling proceeds, with sophisticated systems of credit and correspondence. This panel will focus on how gathering the Land Tax operated on an informal, voluntary basis, cheek by jowl with the highly effective and illicit laundering and transmission of smuggling money. The papers will illustrate how by the early 1780s the effective gathering and transmission of illicit funds within local communities contrasted with the slow and cumbersome collection of the Land Tax which had become highly dysfunctional.
The panel will also reference the centralised and professional collection of excise taxation, and the close-knit relationships between agents and smuggling merchants in the Irish Sea and English Channel. In so doing, it will illustrate the paradox within local communities of the phenomenon of efficacy in the administration of illicit economies, and the inefficient local gathering of funds desperately needed by the state.

Dabeoc Stanley is a second year (full-time) PGR student at Lancaster, funded by the NWCDTP, studying the smuggling cliques and networks of the Isle of Man and Guernsey during the Long Eighteenth-Century.

Amy Stanning is a second year (part-time) PGR student at Lancaster, funded by ESRC, working on her project, ‘Was there a taxation revolution in late-eighteenth century Britain?

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking in advance is required.