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Taxation in Colonial America
Alvin Rabushka

Special Recognition in the 2009 Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Awards

Paperback | 2015 | $49.95 | £41.95 | ISBN: 9780691168234
968 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
Hardcover | 2008 | $90.00 | £74.95 | ISBN: 9780691133454
968 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 10 halftones. 1 map.
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Taxation in Colonial America examines life in the thirteen original American colonies through the revealing lens of the taxes levied on and by the colonists. Spanning the turbulent years from the founding of the Jamestown settlement to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Alvin Rabushka provides the definitive history of taxation in the colonial era, and sets it against the backdrop of enormous economic, political, and social upheaval in the colonies and Europe.

Rabushka shows how the colonists strove to minimize, avoid, and evade British and local taxation, and how they used tax incentives to foster settlement. He describes the systems of public finance they created to reduce taxation, and reveals how they gained control over taxes through elected representatives in colonial legislatures. Rabushka takes a comprehensive look at the external taxes imposed on the colonists by Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden, as well as internal direct taxes like poll and income taxes. He examines indirect taxes like duties and tonnage fees, as well as county and town taxes, church and education taxes, bounties, and other charges. He links the types and amounts of taxes with the means of payment--be it gold coins, agricultural commodities, wampum, or furs--and he compares tax systems and burdens among the colonies and with Britain.

This book brings the colonial period to life in all its rich complexity, and shows how colonial attitudes toward taxation offer a unique window into the causes of the revolution.

Alvin Rabushka is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His books include The Flat Tax.


"Running to nearly a thousand pages, this massive compendium of Colonial American tax data draws together disparate primary and secondary sources in an impressive feat of scholarship. Rabushka provides context for the wealth of public finance detail through a constitutional history ranging from the Magna Carta, through the early Colonial charters and Parliament's subordination of the monarchy, the Parliament's final confrontations with the increasingly assertive Colonies. . . . Encyclopedia, with much narratives committed to tax listings, this volume is a valuable resource for research."--R. S. Hewett, Choice

"[T]hanks to Rabushka's work, more can now be done on the history of trans-Atlantic connections. The originality of this book is in its mastery of the printed secondary and primary works, thus offering the most definitive resource to date on the subject of taxation in colonial America."--William J. Ashworth, Enterprise & Society

"Alvin Rabushka has written an extraordinary history of early American taxation. Weighing in at 3 pounds, 5 ounces, and running to almost 1,000 pages, it's a big book. But it needs to be, for this is historical work on a grand scale. Rabushka has managed to compress into a single volume a detailed history of the colonial tax systems between the settlement of Jamestown and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It's an extraordinary accomplishment."--Joseph J. Thorndike, Tax Notes

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