The Hundred Years’ War brought us modern taxes and the modern state:
Prior to the Hundred Years’ War, it was expected that monarchs would finance their governments out of their own pockets, specifically, from money generated from their extensive landholdings. Imagine that the Bushes had to fund the federal government with money produced by their compound in Kennebunkport and Crawford ranch. Yes, monarchs could supplement their income with indirect taxes by tapping into the funds of all royal subjects, but this was rare and done only in exceptional, emergency circumstances. There was a medieval legal maxim that prevented permanent taxation (one that should be tattooed on the foreheads of all politicians): “With the cause having ended, the consequence must end.” That is, once the emergency was over, the tax must end too.
But that legal rule would be consigned to the dustbin of history with the Hundred Years War. As you might imagine, financing a war over generations is quite expensive. Paying for armies to pillage and rape for decades doesn’t come cheap. Thus, given the duration and intensity of the war, direct taxes became a routine part of life. It was as if governments now existed in a state of permanent emergency. To give you an example of the change, during the reign of Henry III of England, which lasted almost 50 years from 1216 to 1272, direct taxes were levied only 5 times, an average of once a decade. However, during the reign of Edward III of England, which also lasted 50 years from 1327 to 1377, direct taxes were levied 27 times, more than every 2 years.
So the next time you make out that check to the IRS, you can thank a war fought for the French crown 560 years ago.