'The Rise of Fiscal Capacity'

Colloquium Methods for Legal History

  • Date: Nov 3, 2020
  • Time: 14:15 - 16:00
  • Speaker: David Cantoni, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich
  • Location: video conference
  • Room: For further information please contact ruether@rg.mpg.de
'The Rise of Fiscal Capacity'

We study the role of a crucial institutional innovation — the development of modern, permanent fiscal administrations (“fiscal centralization”)—in fostering state consolidation and shaping the European states system in the Early Modern era. Using an extensive, novel dataset we examine the introduction of fiscal centralization at the territory level in the Holy Roman Empire from 1400 to 1789. We find that territories that introduced fiscal centralization were more likely to survive, increased in size, and were able to achieve a higher degree of territorial contiguity. We show that increased investments in military infrastructure, and thus better defensive success in military conflicts, were the key mechanism through which territorial rulers were able to consolidate and strengthen their territories following the establishment of fiscal institutions. We argue that a major external threat, the Ottoman siege of Vienna, was a key driver of this development, fostering the adoption of fiscal centralization by territorial rulers and bypassing the rising power of representative assemblies of the Estates.

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