Cartulary of Saint Trond: Gerard, Count of Loos:
Exaction of the Head Tax at Brusthem, 1175
The head, poll, or hearth tax replaced the tallage or queste in the twelfth,
thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. It was levied on serfs as well as others, though the
condition of the serf, as is indicated by the fine of seven solidi, had been considerably
ameliorated. In this instance Gerard, Count of Loos, was granting to Brusthem the law of
If any serf of the church shall owe a head tax and shall have remained in the town,
he shall be entirely free from being compelled to plead and from other unjust exactions
which are frequently required of this kind of man by tax-gatherers or their officers.
Nevertheless, the head tax which he owes he shall give to the tax-gatherer, just as is
right. But if, as is often the case, he should neglect to give it, the tax-gatherer should
complain about him to his reeve, or to our justice who presides over our judicial affairs,
and thus, at the direction of the law, he who neglected to pay the tax shall be compelled
to pay it. But concerning that which he had neglected he should swear of himself, except
his case be dismissed, that he was always prepared to pay that tax, and moreover let him
do this soon. But if his conscience pricks him so that he be unwilling and cannot swear,
let him pay the fine which we commonly call bannum et legem, namely seven solidi,
of which the judge shall have five, and the tax-gatherer the remaining two. But if he is
willing to deny that he owes the tax, and if he says that he has paid the tax-gatherer
what was required of him, the taking of an oath shall be sufficient to prove his
statement. If it should happen that a man under this jurisdiction should die and have an
advocate, the advocate shall have no authority over his possessions, but the heir or the
nearest relation shall have that authority, or else he to whom, as the testator was about
to die, he left his possessions out of kindness or for the good of his soul.
C. Piot, ed., Cartulaire de l'Abbaye dc Saint-Trond, (Brussels: Academie Royale
de Belgique, 1870), p. 123; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source
Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936;
reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 370-371.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998