The purpose of this paper is to present a re-evaluation of the reign of England's King John (1199–1216) from a fiscal perspective. The paper seeks to explain John's innovations in terms of widening the scope and severity of tax assessment and revenue collection. In particular, the paper seeks to highlight the significance of Hubert Walter as the king's financial adviser. He exercised a moderating influence in the first half of John's reign and was the guiding hand in the successful introduction of innovative measures designed to increase revenues. These became extreme after his death in 1205, when John lacked his counsel. It is further suggested that the Magna Carta was a direct reaction to such financial severity. Many of the clauses in Magna Carta refer specifically to John's tax innovations and severity. Linked to this, the paper argues that these events were critical to the establishment of the principle of taxation by consent. As a result of the innovative and extreme nature of John's fiscal measures, it is our contention that John is a significant influence in moving away from deep-rooted feudal systems to the beginnings of what we would now understand as a national taxation system. This occurred against the background of a period of transition in state finance from a domain-based to a tax-based state.

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