Contesting fiscal fairness. Explaining fiscal reform in the 18th-century Austrian Netherlands (1749-1794).

Project Details


When and how do societies adopt equitable systems of taxation? In modern societies taxation is considered indispensable: it is not only the foundation of state power, but also of economic institutions that allow markets to prosper. Therefore, fiscal historians studying the
19th and 20th centuries have argued that winning over the trust of taxpayers was instrumental in the establishment of modern, prosperous states. For this trust to be established, taxes had to be perceived as the equal responsibility of all citizens, destined for a justifiable purpose, and distributed in a fair rather than arbitrary way. It is often assumed that these conditions of equitable taxation were not yet met in the early modern period: prior to the 19th century taxation was generally regressive, arbitrary, and levied without any commitment towards social redistribution. Taxation is thus thought to
have spurred inequality. This project will challenge this understanding of pre-modern fiscal history for the 18th-century Southern Low Countries by (1) examining the social distribution of taxation, (2) explaining the variety in fiscal systems through comparative analysis, and (3) tracing the intellectual context in which tax reform was
shaped at different political levels. In order to achieve this objective, the project builds on exceptionally rich archives produced by a government commission tasked with the supervision and reform of subordinate financial administrations in the Austrian Netherlands
Effective start/end date1/01/2031/12/23

Flemish discipline codes

  • Early modern history
  • European history
  • Socio-economic history


  • financial history
  • european history
  • Socio-economic history