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State, Taxation, and Power in the Late Roman World (300–700 CE)

Paolo Tedesco, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Summer Fellow 2016–2017

I completed chapter four of my forthcoming book, which offers a new approach to the understanding of late Roman fiscality, and helps explain the extent to which changes in tax collection and redistribution reflected political and economic transformations. Chapter four investigates the emergence of the successor kingdoms of the Visigoths and the Burgundians in southern and eastern Gaul, and of the Vandals in North Africa, through the fifth century. Evidence indicates that state formation in these three areas determined a shift to a political economy of appropriation of resources no longer predominantly tax-centered. Since the fiscal subordination of the provinces from the center of the empire broke up, new forms of alliance between rulers and the provincial aristocracy were established. Finally, since a substantial degree of surplus production and peasant exploitation were preserved, it did not matter how weak tax extraction had become. For the Visigothic and Burgundian kingdoms, in addition to slender literary sources, most of my study relied on a thorough investigation of legislative corpora. For Vandal North Africa, the absence of a codification was supplemented by abundant numismatic evidence and noteworthy literary sources, including epigraphic evidence. In connection with this book, I intend to present a full discussion tentatively entitled “A Story of Two Transitions: North Africa under Byzantium and Early Islam,” to be published in the Journal of European Economic History.