‘Hidden in open view’: estate duty and attitudes to inherited wealth

Marie Fletcher, John Wilson

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Estate Duty has been, since it was enacted in 1894, a source of extensive debate, especially as successive governments increased the rate and the valuation methods failed to accommodate the realities facing those who inherited wealth. We examine the extent to which the imposition of Estate Duty provided fascinating insights into British attitudes towards inherited wealth, demonstrating that despite significant debate and evidence provided in the public forum, politicians appeared immune to the complaints. On the other hand, in freezing the rate of Estate Duty for the agricultural sector in 1925, it is possible that a bias towards landed inherited wealth crept into the system. Using a wide range of sources, including parliamentary papers, newspapers and trade association publications, the paper evaluates the nature of this debate, which was largely carried out in the public domain.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023
EventEconomic History Society Annual Conference 2023 - University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Mar 20232 Apr 2023
https://ehs.org.uk/conference/ (Conference website.)


ConferenceEconomic History Society Annual Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • estate duty
  • death duties
  • inherited wealth
  • family firms
  • agriculture
  • landed interest


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