The Gabelle: France’s Tyrannical Salt Tax – Bad Ideas #31

Audio only version!

The Gabelle was a tax on salt that was instated in the 14th century to fund a war in the country that would eventually become France. It didn’t die out until 1946. During the time of its existence it became one of the most unjust and hated taxes in history. It inspired thousands of people to become salt smugglers, despite the smuggling of salt being punishable by death. The French people’s extreme dissatisfaction with the tax was one of the factors that led to the bloody French Revolution. In this episode we give an overview of this terrible tax, discussing what made it so bad, and how people tried to get around it. Many of the notes for this episode were taken from Salt: a World History by Mark Kurlansky which can be found here:

Additional Notes taken from Smuggling in Early Modern France which can be viewed (for free!) here:


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