THE foundations of England's present-day financial structure were laid broad and deep centuries ago. The Exchequer and the Treasury can trace their lineage directly to Norman times, possibly even to the times of the great Alfred himself. There have been a Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Treasurer since the days of Henry II--that is, since the middle of the twelfth century.
Books of account, or rather Rolls of account (for the accounts were written on parchment which was made up in long strips which were rolled up when not in use) are extant from the reign of this king.
The early kings had extensive demesnes from which they derived a large part of their revenue. Aside from this source of income, the receipts of the Exchequer during all of these ages have come from three principal sources--from internal taxation, from customs and from borrowing.
The history of the revenues of England's kings is inseparably bound up with the history of the development of her civil rights. The fight for the control of the purse, first formulated in the terms of Magna Charta, wrung by the barons from the tyrant John in 1215, was only won after four and a half centuries of conflict between sovereign and people. The word "people" is used here and elsewhere in these chapters as a generic term referring to those members of the body politic who from time to time were capable of taking part in public affairs. In the time of the Norman Kings