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State Cash Resources and State Building in Europe 13th-18th century

Katia Béguin
Anne L. Murphy

Tax or Borrow or Borrow and Tax?

Monetary, Fiscal and Financial Reform of the Castilian State (Thirteenth–Seventeenth Century)

José Damián González Arce

Author's note

This chapter was written as part of the HAR2011–26218 project, entitled ‘Fiscalidad y sociedad en la Corona de Castilla al sur del Tajo’ (Taxation and society in the kingdom of Castile south of the Tagus).

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This chapter reviews the reforms undertaken by the Castilian crown to alleviate the successive economic crises of the pre-capitalist era. The solutions adopted at that time laid the foundations of the modern state through the introduction of new monetary, fiscal and financial systems that ultimately evolved into those in place today. In the interest of brevity, only the beginnings of these innovations, at the time of their implementation, will be addressed, as it is not possible here to analyse how they changed over time.

I. Monetary Policy and Deflationary Measures

Castile was one of the first European regions to mint a gold coin. Alfonso VIII issued morabetinos starting in 1172, subsequently followed by Ferdinand II, king of Leon, and Sancho I, king of Portugal. In 1215, the maravedí became a money of account, but was not permanently replaced by the dobla as gold coin until the rein of Alfonso X. By 1200, the loss of value of the traditional billon (vellón) in relation to gold had b...


José Damián González Arce is Professor of Economic History at the University of Murcia. His notable publications include: ‘Los cambistas compostelanos, un gremio de banqueros pionero en la Castilla medieval (siglos XII–XV)’, Medievalismo, 17, 2007, pp. 85–120; La fiscalidad del señorío de Villena en la baja Edad Media, Albacete, Instituto de Estudios Albacetenses, 2002; ’La política fiscal de Alfonso X en el reino de Murcia: portazgo y diezmos’, Studia Historica, Historia Medieval, 10, 1992, pp. 73–100.

© Institut de la gestion publique et du développement économique, 2017

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