England's Last Poll Tax

Conrad Russell examines the evil reputation attached to the poll tax.

The English cannot normally match the historical memory of the Irish. The evil reputation attaching to Poll Taxes is one of the very few exceptions to this principle. A casual study of this summer's British newspapers, reporting the Thatcher Government's plans to replace property rates in Britain with 'a community charge' levied on an individual headcount (or 'poll') basis, shows that the evil reputation of the Poll Tax of 1380 and its association with the subsequent Peasants' Revolt, lives on. However, it was not, as is frequently asserted, the last English poll tax, Another was levied – in 1641. It may be interesting to look at what happened in 1641, to see what those responsible for that Poll Tax learnt from their predecessors' errors.

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