FARAVID 33/2009


Anssi Mäkinen, Tax counts as indicators of tax changes in the district of Lappee, 1580 – 1600

The present research investigates the effects of the crisis which ensued from a 25-year war (1570 – 95) on tax-collection practices, specifically through a consideration of one item, the tax count. The area of study is the district of Lappee in south-east Finland. The investigation begins from the year 1580, when the process of evacuation had already begun but had not yet spread. The number of houses recorded reached a low point in the land register in 1588. The investigation concludes in 1600, when the land register shows marked changes in tax-collection practices.

The tax count recorded for a house in the land register reveals how great a portion of taxable goods reckoned for so-called full taxation it was liable for to the crown. A bailiff with his assistants reckoned each house’s capability to pay tax and defined this according to the tax count, which was generally a half, third, twelfth or equivalent. Apart from the tax count, the investigation also takes note of the houses’ bow count, which indicates the number of adult males and hence the workforce. The taxes were checked and resystematised beginning from the 1580s at intervals of a few years.

In the land register of 1580 there are 1194 houses, of which 103 are recorded as empty. Over half the houses have a tax count of a quarter or sixth, which may be reckoned “mid-sized”. The bow counts relate to the tax counts: houses with a large tax count have relatively more bows then those with small tax counts. In houses recorded on the list of empty properties the tax counts tend to be small more often than in houses capable of being taxed. Over half the empty houses have a tax count of a sixth or eighth.

The total number of houses recorded in the land register of 1588 is just 667, almost half the previous figure. 283 were empty, or almost three times the 1580 figure. The number of houses capable of being taxed has collapsed to around a third since 1580. The change in the tax counts is also stark. The proportion of houses reckoned at one half tax is now over two-thirds, and houses reckoned at full tax are around a fifth of all houses. Houses reckoned at a third tax are just a tenth, and just a few are at still lower rates. Empty houses also tend towards higher tax counts than in 1580. Over a third of them are reckoned at a third tax, and half of all empty properties are reckoned at either a half or a quarter tax. The contraction in number of houses may stem from leaving numerous untaxable houses wholly out of the land register. The tendency of the tax counts to become larger indicates that houses previously reckoned as separate establishments have been recorded as one property.

The number of houses in the land register of 1600 is back to 2131. Some houses have a shared tax count, so there are somewhat fewer tax counts. Similarly the bow count is at times divided between two or more houses. The land register now records the taxation liabilities clearly and very precisely, and in detail. It may be supposed that tax-payers who were previously recorded as belonging to one household are now recorded separately, when carrying out the supervision of the taxation liabilities is thus rendered more effective and precise. Empty properties have also often been assigned to new masters. The huge growth in the land register’s houses is reflected directly in the houses’ tax counts: the main emphasis is now upon small tax counts. Of the houses, almost a half are reckoned at just half a count. The empty properties’ tax counts tend to be a little higher than those of houses capable of taxation.

In addition, the research investigates the stages of settlement in a few villages from year to year. The investigation shows that the number of houses recorded in the 1580s in the land register diminished noticeably, just as the tax counts of the remaining houses increased. The tax systems brought about the registration of many new houses in the land register, especially in 1591, 1595 and 1600, in which years it is likely that a fundamental resystematisation of the taxes took place.


Faravid 33/2009