Imagine Europe around 1810. Imagine the Netherlands. Imagine that it is the colonial age. Imagine also that the colonies are mostly under open rebellion. Imagine that the region of Netherlands (imagine only) and the surrounding states already have the following technologies:

  1. Telegraph (telephone probably 3 generations away)
  2. Intercity steam-based locomotive (electrical-based trains almost a decade away)
  3. Some steamships but not in popular use (and no ironclad military ships)
  4. Common steel (no stainless steel yet)
  5. The sail technologies that would have been known in Victorian Era

Rifling technology is still new, so there are no rifled cannons. But they do have rifles, imagine the Sharps rifle.

The kingdom of Just Enough is a colonial power similar to the Dutch that uses 3 types of currency: Ema (gold), Catty (silver) and Luca (copper). The precious metals exchange rates are as follows:

1 gold ema = 10 silver catty

1 silver catty = 25 copper luca

Originally based on precious metals, inflation and economic collapse brought by hoarding and colonial uprisings had prompted the king to take the value of each coin off its precious metal standard. So it becomes the following:

1 gold ema = 3 paper ema

1 silver catty = 2 faux silver catty

1 gold ema = 60 faux silver catty

1 paper ema = 20 faux silver catty

Copper is unpegged from silver and pegged to faux silver instead, which means 1 gold ema equals 1500 copper luca (say what?)

Assume that the average daily wage for a day labourer (farms, mines, server) is 10 copper luca. A long loaf of french bread is 5 copper. A train ticket is 30 copper per person. A slice of fish enough for 4 person gruel/stew cost around 2 copper.

The kingdom institutes the following taxes to those in the crown territories:

  1. Head tax

    • for men above 16 - 5 faux silver every 3 months
    • for women above 18 - 3 faux silver every 3 months
  2. Land rent

    • only for non-noble landowners in crown territories
  3. Wealth tax

    • applicable to owned houses, gold, silver, gemstones and pearls
  4. Business tax

    • only applicable to businesses operating in crown territories
  5. Wedding tax

    • only applicable to marriage between Just Enough women and foreign men.

Taxes are paid preferably in faux silver.


  1. How much would an average household of 2 adults and 3 children (not taxable age) earn for a year? This is in relation to the societal norms of Victorian Era Netherlands. As in do both parents work, only the father works, or do the father work two jobs?

  2. How much would said household spend on food for a year in the city/town? Or for a month?

  3. Is the current currency and taxation humanely feasible or is it in violation of human rights at the time of Victorian England?

If I wasn't being clear on anything, please ask. I'm afraid I left something out. Of course, feel free to nitpick anything here. Average daily salary too low? Argue about it. French loaf too expensive? Argue about it. I have no problem with it.

  • $\begingroup$ This question might be too broad.....but what do I know? $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ This site will be of great help to you, thehistoryofengland.co.uk/resource/medieval-prices-and-wages $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ What exactly is a "long loaf", it is not a well defined term. Is it enough to feed a person for a day? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 19:13

5 Answers 5

  1. Who is working in the family depends at which social class it belong.

    If they live on a farm everybody will contribute.

    If they live in a city, during the industrial age, it was common for children to work in the factories. Women also worked in the factories with very low wages. The shifts at the factory can be really long. At 16 hours per day, I doubt the father could have 2 jobs.

    If they are wealthy enough, it's possible that the women will stay at home instead of working. The children can go to school longer and might not need to work before adulthood.

    The average family would earn enough money to buy a couple of presents for Christmas (like an orange, that's exotic) and save for a couple of treats here and there during the year, mostly for religious holidays. They are almost incapable of saving money for the long term even considering that everyone is working and that they make everything possible to save money. Good news !: retirement plan is useless since they are likely to die before their 50's.

  2. Most of the revenue of poor people go into housing and food. I don't know how much exactly. It depend how much they spend on housing. They probably live in a small apartment in a crowded area not too far for the industries.
  3. Too much calculation for me. As WeekzGod mentioned. they have no concept of Human rights, although they might offer some *charity for the poor, unless they still consider it a disease. At that time, slavery was still legal in some of the colonial states and the British continued to use Coolies afterward. That's barely better than a slave or the Russian serfs. Furthermore, the Victorian Era started with the Crowning of Queen Victoria in 1836.

I should also add that the industrial revolution started to really kick off around 1820, even in the most developed countries. The first factories and railroads. I based my answer more closely to the level of industrialization around 1850-1870 (rail network) since the level of tech of 1810 is probably less advanced than in your description. But it's ok since it's steampunk.

  • $\begingroup$ "I doubt the father could have 2 jobs", is an excellent point. Most situations today where you hear "[person] works 2-3 jobs" are the result of labor regulation like mandatory (higher) overtime pay making it uneconomical to have someone work for a single employer for more than, say, 40hr per week. These conditions did not exist in the early 19th century on earth, and it doesn't sound like they would be likely to exist in your world either. $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2017 at 13:50

Disclaimer: I mostly agree with Vincent's and Brythan's answers, but wanted to added my own twist/considerations to Brythan's thoughts.

Too many taxes.

First, your state nearly does not provide any service other than the government, the army and (very little) police. Administration is small, both due to the small size of the government and the low rate of literacy.

Most of your taxes are "modern" taxes that require quite some modern management to process.

Head tax? How do you ensure that everyone in the neighborhood has paid it? Most probably, you do not even know who lives there, or at which house, as there is no actual census nor identity documents. The same goes for the business tax.

Additionally, with most of the population barely surviving, either they won't have money to pay the head tax (and you cannot imprison 90% of your population) or it amounts to so little that it provides less than the cost of tax collectors.

Wedding tax is strange, since it gives the people an incentive just to don't wed. Ok, at first it would be uncommon and perhaps there will be social resistance, but those things change1.

Land rent and wealth tax are appliable, but only to things that are public and notorious. No sense taxing gold and pearls, since I can hide them deep in my dungeons and claim I have none. I cannot claim that I don't have my palazzo because it is in plain view from the street.

From the historical POV, governments of the age loved tariffs, because:

  • It made easy identify who had the money: if you were importing a million of socks at a silver catty the unit, you had 1 million silver catties. It made easy to calculate the government's cut.

  • The theory of the time was that the states had to hoard precious metals (mercantilism). When someone in your kingdom imports one million socks, a lot of silver gets out of your kingdom to pay those socks. And local sock-makers could get broke due to the foreign competence, leading to unemployment and social issues. Heavy taxation helped to make that class of business less profitable and less frequent.

Brythan's comment is also good. Either the government controls the issue of fiat money with an iron fist (that is, you cannot print 2 faux silver catties without holding 1 true silver catty in the Treasury/Central Bank), nobody will want the unbacked currency without a discount. Being in a position to chose, the government will ask for payment in currency backed by bullion.

UPDATE: Additionally, making "false" part of the denomination (the official name) of a coin sounds like very bad marketing (not to mention confusing; if I mint my own catties would those be "false faux catties"?). I would stick either to "paper [something]" (paper catties) or just create a different name for the denomination.

1 For example, in my country - Spain - for some income ranges the formula used for calculating taxes led to married couples paying sensibly more that those two people paying taxes each on its own. That lead to such a surge in "fake" divorces (people getting divorced for tax purposes while still living as a marriage) that finally the Government allowed married people to fill taxes individually if they wished to.


I don't have the historical background to answer the first question. To address your third question, I find it extremely unlikely that human rights would be an obstacle to anything in 1810. The question would be if it is fiscally feasible. I'll get back to that.

Most households in 1810 did not pay anything for food. They grew it, as most households would be farmers (roughly 90%). A substantial portion of the remainder would have been servants, who would get room and board from the houses where they worked. Then there's the military, who also get room and board. Of the remainder, a distinct portion would be considered well-to-do. So we're talking about a small portion (5%?) who could be considered laborers and make a "typical" working/middle class salary.

So to get back to the tax question, most people couldn't pay a head tax as they'd have no money. The farmers have no money because they are serfs working someone else's land. The laborers would have no money simply because they needed everything to get by. The servants and military would have a small amount of money. The well-to-do would pay most all of the taxes. So a head tax seems unlikely.

How would a wealth tax be assessed? Would tax collectors come into a household and search for jewelry? This seems unlikely during this period, as so few people would have sufficient money to pay it. A tax on houses seems more feasible.

You mention a business tax, which is not quite correct. There would actually need to be many business taxes. Blacksmiths and tailors would not pay the same tax. They couldn't, as their businesses would be quite different.

What we think of modernly as taxes wouldn't work in 1810, as banking was nowhere near advanced enough to support it. Our wealth sits in banks while our income is the movement of money from one bank to another. That makes it possible to audit taxation of our rather abstract concepts (wealth, income, etc.). In 1810, taxation was based more on real property (land and houses) or fees (travel, paperwork, etc.).

The biggest concern with the monetary system that you propose is the question of how it would get people to support it. Presumably taxes can be paid in faux money, but imports can't be purchased that way. That only works for us because we worked up to it slowly. It sounds like they're trying to mandate fiat money. The more likely result is an official exchange rate and an unofficial rate. The official rate is how much faux money you can get for gold, silver, or copper. The unofficial rate is how much gold, silver, and copper you can get for faux money. The unofficial rate is likely to be better. People will hoard metals and trade in faux money.

Under the circumstances described, it is likely that most will export their metal money to avoid confiscation. It is unclear how well the substitute will work in its absence.

Hoarding money causes deflation, not inflation. That's why you counteract it by devaluing the currency, which does cause inflation.

  • $\begingroup$ Just one comment about Human Rights: while it is true that no law codifies them, the Illustration & French Revolution have already happened and the idea that common people can fight back the government/King/noble has been spreading. While "the powers that be" are still quite powerful, they must be more careful than they were 50 years back, and some people is already (illegally) asking for elected parliaments (even if suffrage is restricted to middle/high classs). $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 21:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I find your assertion that most people had no money highly questionable. Can you back that up? Even hundreds of years prior, most people sold at least some of their produce or crafts, and therefore had small amounts of money available. I'm also rather dubious that 1810 Netherlands still practiced serfdom per se. Finally, it should be noted that in England, "human rights" concerns (well, religious/moral reasons; the rhetoric wasn't identical) had just (1807) led to banning the slave trade. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the Netherlands were probably the most urbanized part of Europe at this time. The population was not dominated by serfs the way France or Russia was. $\endgroup$
    – user243
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 12:25
  1. I'm a new comer here so I don't know what convention is but is that really fair of you to in essence ask us to do the math for you?

  2. I would say the depends on the type of person your character is. It doesn't matter if he makes x amount a year or 1000x, if he's a miser he won't spend a lot, if he's careless with money he'll spend his last nickle before his bills are paid. You need to figure out what kind of characters you are dealing with. find out their personalities, habits, proclivities, etc.

  3. Your taxation scheme is entirely feasible. Rulers did what they wanted to all the time, particularly to the poor. Violation of Human rights? Unless you were a wealthy, white, male, there wasn't great treatment of most people in society. No such thing as work safety, no public welfare, no 8 hour day, etc. Not to mention slavery still existed.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I asked question 1 because I'm not sure if in Victorian Era Netherlands the father as well as the mother work at the same time. Also I do not know the mentality of that time, so I'm not sure if the labourer would work day and night to earn from two jobs or just relax at night. Sure, I can make a character, but I can't create an entire society. My question 1 refers to how much would a Victorian Era Netherlands person earn if faced with that those expenses and taxes. $\endgroup$
    – Shion
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ Is this supposed to be directly set in Victorian Era Holland or is it based on Victorian era holland? I think if it's the former than you might have to do some research or wait for a reply here. However I do know that in poor victorian societies both genders worked as did the children. Only middle and upper class women could afford to not work. And if it is jused based on VE Holland than I think you have some leeway to play with the society a bit. $\endgroup$
    – WeekzGod
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ It's based on Victorian Era Holland, but not in Holland itself, it's an alternate reality. Yes, that was what I was wondering about. If only the father work, whether it be single shift or double shift, I can calculate it, but I don't know who else in the family works, and how much they would earn compared to a strong adult man. $\endgroup$
    – Shion
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thus it is entirely up to. Make it up. You can play with the social standards of the society. $\endgroup$
    – WeekzGod
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 19:17

There is a helpful list of wages and costs for medieval england based on a medieval sourcebook compiled by Kenneth Hodges. Its not a perfect source but it is decent and well referenced at least and compares well with other similar attempts. The victorian era is more tricky because wages changed a lot during that period, usually only single documents like this were comparable. Oddly you can find very good resources on this period in America because of government records. Thankfully there are some studies of victorian england costs I will discuss at the end.

In medieval england a gallon loaf (~9lbs of bread, enough to feed one person for a week) costs about 0.75 Shilling, an unskilled laborer was paid between 40-80 shillings a year or roughly 1/6th to 1/4th of a shilling per day.

So your average laborer made between slightly more than what they needed to feed themselves, to twice what they needed to feed themselves. So it sounds like your prices and wages are reasonable. Assuming of course a "long loaf" is enough food for a day, they might even be on the upper end.

Farmers were not really paid, they grew the food they ate, and sold what they could. Even if they were paid most of their "pay: was not actually money so a wage is misleading. Many jobs had benefits besides wages, workers would be paid in goods as well. A swineherd looks like they are paid horribly but they also received food, housing, and trees for firewood. Similarly a victorian milkmaid seems to have a very low wage, but they you realize she likely also received food and housing at the very least.

For the victorian period costs and wages changed drastically] making it harder to get exact numbers but a MIT study on prices and cost of living says:

The average laborer spent 40 per cent of his total expenditure for bread and flour, 20 per cent for animal products, 9 per cent for sugar, tea, beer, etc., 4 per cent for "groceries" (soap, candles, etc.), I5 per cent for rent and fuel, and 8 per cent for clothing

Based on this your costs look a little high but not impossibly so. Again assuming of course a "long loaf" is enough food for a day. Also note prices will vary by region of course a city might have higher prices on bread but lower prices on cloth. The paper notes that the cost of bread fell towards the end so the later you set it technologically the cheaper bread should be.


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