ABSTRACT

However, in a few decades, policy faced new scenarios. Back from Avignon, the papal court landed in Rome with an ambitious programme to enlarge and consolidate the state. is was quite clear at least a er the 1527 sack, when the Reformation sped up the whole process. Given that contributions from northern Europe were plummeting, the Apostolic Chamber – a sort of Treasury ministry – had only two nancial choices le : public debt and taxation. Both of them were exploited, yet with di erent timing. At the very beginning the Chamber drove the lever of public debt, which registered a huge increase over the period from 1550 to 1650. High interest rates were o ered to encourage

investors, and capital in ow burst out towards the attractive Chamber cashier’s windows.5 Later on the debt was settled, at 3 per cent only.6 Fiscal manoeuvres then followed, a er a number of political outcomes which allowed the state periphery to be nancially self-supporting, thanks to a strong regional treasurers’ network. e wealthy Roman consumption markets then became the target of a new dynamic tax policy, by which town control was considered an absolute priority. e Chamber managed to deprive Rome of its glorious political and nancial autonomy, running all the major town businesses directly. Even local taxes on meat were rst cashed in by the Chamber, and then given graciously back to the Capitol administration to pay interests on city loans, which in turn had been imposed by the Chamber itself.7 A er many humiliations, in 1586 Sixtus V scornfully informed the town administrators that, given their absolute incompetence, he was forced to exclude them also from the Roman annona, the important food-supply department. ey would be le only with the role of executing the Ponti ’s decisions and little more.8 From a nancial point of view, this was a concrete threat. In the 1630s the Capitoline treasury still received a 50 per cent return from the tax farmers’ contract fees, but in 1685 the percentage had been lowered to 15 per cent and from 1685 Rome was denied any earnings whatsoever. Custom fees were collected totally by the Chamber, and went to repay the interest on state public debt.9