DAY ONE: The Mechanics of Extraction: Comparing Principles of Taxation and Tax Compliance in the Ancient World

Workshop organized by Irene Soto (ISAW PhD Student) and Jonathan Valk (ISAW PhD Student)

The exercise of power depends on the ability of governing structures to collect and reallocate resources—be they in the form of currency, labor, agricultural produce, raw materials, or processed goods. Systems of taxation are the basis for the collection of resources and the generation of revenue. Today, such systems are ubiquitous, embedded in the socio-political structures associated with the modern state. While there are ongoing arguments about who should be taxed and precisely how much, there nevertheless exists a widespread recognition of a social contract, whereby the state enjoys widespread tax compliance in return for the provision of a variety of services. To what extent is this true for ancient societies? Ancient polities often diverge in many important respects from modern states—not least in the practical tools at their disposal when assessing the availability of resources or enforcing tax compliance. How did ancient administrative systems determine the quantity and character of taxes that were to be levied? What were the procedures for the collection of said taxes? Numerous types of taxes and forms of tax collection are attested in the ancient world; what conditions determined the preference for certain types and forms over others? How much agency did ancient polities enjoy in the determination of preferred systems of taxation? Addressing these and related questions in the context of spatially and diachronically distinct ancient societies will serve not only to establish a foundation for comparative research, but also to sharpen thinking about taxation in the ancient world from a practical perspective.

10:00am - Introductory Remarks

10:05am - Jonathan Valk, ISAW PhD Student
A State of Extraction: Navigating Taxation in Ancient Polities 

10:25am - Roderick Campbell, ISAW
Taxing Questions: Financing the Chinese Bronze Age

10:50am - Discussion         

11:00am - Coffee Break

11:30am - Steven Garfinkle, Western Washington University
Co-option and Patronage: The Mechanics of Extraction in Southern Mesopotamia under the Third Dynasty of Ur

11:55am - Richard Payne, University of Chicago
Taxation, Aristocratic Autonomy, and Theories of Reciprocity in the Iranian Empire

12:20pm - Discussion

12:45pm - Lunch Break

1:45pm - Eva von Dassow, University of Minnesota
Liberty and Duty in Late Bronze Age States

2:10pm - Lorenzo d’Alfonso, ISAW
Taxation in Hittite Anatolia

2:35pm - Discussion

3:00pm - Tea Break

3:30pm - Pamela Crabtree, NYU
Taxation in Anglo-Saxon England: Archaeological and Historical Approaches

3:55pm - Maxim Korolkov, Columbia University
Fiscal Transition in Early China: From Warring States to Empires (Late 4th–1st Century B.C.)

4:20pm - Discussion 

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Registration is required at

Please note that separate registration is required for each day of this two-day workshop: September 30th (10:00am-5:00pm) and October 1st (10:00am-4:00pm).

The workshop is co-sponsored by ISAW, the NYU Center for Humanities, the NYU Center for Ancient Studies, the NYU Classics Department, and an anonymous gift.