Beer and Taxes

The Fiscal Significance for Holland and England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries


  • Richard W. Unger University of British Columbia



Beer, Taxation, Fiscal Policy, Seventeenth Century, Eighteenth Century


Beer taxes were long a significant source of government revenue in northern Europe. In Holland the income from beer taxes went into long-term decline from 1650 onward. In England the take remained more stable. In both, beer produced a falling share of total revenue as expenses increased in an era of frequent and increasingly costly wars. The fiscal policies pursued in reaction to beer contributing a declining share of total government income led, by 1800, to policies that made the tax burden more broadly shared in the Netherlands than it was in Great Britain. The failure of beer to support the states, as the drink had previously, was less important to fiscal health than more general developments in population and in the economies of the two.


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Author Biography

Richard W. Unger, University of British Columbia

Richard W. Unger (1942), trained in economic history, taught courses in the Middle Ages and other periods of European history at the University of British Columbia where he is now professor emeritus. He has published widely on the history of Dutch and European shipbuilding from the Middle Ages to the end of the age of sail, the history of the brewing industry in the Netherlands and in Europe from the early Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, on the history of medieval and Renaissance cartography, and most recently on levels of energy consumption in Canada in the last two centuries.




How to Cite

Unger, R. W. . (2022). Beer and Taxes: The Fiscal Significance for Holland and England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. TSEG - The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 19(1), 61–86.



Research Article