Monthly Archives: May 2021

Discovering the Early Modern Offshore World: Smuggling and the Long History of Tax Havens

by Dr. David Chan Smith (Wilfrid Laurier University) There is in an old British entrepreneurial tradition for those keen to escape regulation: find an ancient liberty, preferably an island (or an abandoned Maunsell Fort in the North Sea), and declare it free. Richard Score seized the opportunity in 1716 when he leased the island of Lundy and claimed that it was beyond British taxes and duties ‘like the Isles of Man, Guernsey etc’. Stretching just three miles long in the Bristol Channel, Lundy was ideally poised to serve the bustling smuggling economy on the coasts of southern Wales and southwest England. Score knew this business well because he had been a Customs officer in Penzance. He had succumbed, as contemporaries often said, to the ‘temptation’ of smuggling. During this period of high duties fortunes were made on islands such as Jersey and Guernsey that served as entrepots in the running trade. And now Score had his very own – at least for a time. His story is part of the long history of tax havens and hidden economies, spaces and structures that continue to shape the global economy. Through the lens of early modern smuggling, my research explores the offshore […]