European debt crisis - past and present

The debt woes of Cyprus and Greece, along with other European countries, have garnered headlines in recent days, but the stories are not new. Renaissance Florence had its own debt crisis, with a solution that looks surprisingly modern.

In 1424, Florence was at war with Milan, incurring a huge war debt (c. UK£82 million in terms of gold; c. UK£270 million measured against wages) and chose to solve the problem by imposing new property taxes, known as the catasto, where each household "was obliged to declare all their assets. These were then taxed at a rate of 0.5% each time the tax was collected." The plan was much the same as proposed for modern Cyprus.

 Alexander Lee looks at the parallelsin an article for History Today. His new book The Ugly Renaissance, is due to be published in September 2013.