tallage (tălˈĭj) [key], Fr. taille, a type of feudal tax. In its origins tallage is not clearly distinguishable from aids (a type of feudal due), and in Germany it never developed beyond an occasional "voluntary" gift from vassal to lord. The French taille, which became widespread and varied according to local custom, was generally a tax levied by the king or lord on his subjects or on the lands or other property they held. In the 15th cent. the taille became a royal tax from which the nobility was exempt, and other privileged groups, including the clergy and the bourgeoisie, later managed to gain exemption. Thus the main burden of the taille, which had become the most important direct tax, fell upon the peasantry and was lifted only by the French Revolution. The English tax known as tallage, introduced by the Norman kings as a partial substitute for the Danegeld, was levied by the kings and lords on their demesne lands (see demesne); under Richard I and John it became a common source of royal revenue. Included within the royal demesne were the chartered towns, which resisted the collection of tallage. London especially protested the tax, and the legality of the tallage collection in that city is a much-disputed historical problem. In 1297 a petition of Edward I prohibited tallage collection without the assent of barons, knights, and burgesses; however, this was not a statute, and the king did not cede his right to tallage. In 1312, London again resisted a tallage; in 1332 Parliament protested imposition of a tallage; and in 1340 Edward III, in return for a subsidy, made an agreement often interpreted as a promise not to collect tallage but apparently only a pledge not to violate old custom. As other means of raising money grew common, tallage disappeared in the reign of Edward III.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.