Will's word

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Subsidy. (noun). grant, financial aid

These days the use of subsidy almost always has positive connotations, because the grant in question is generally given to assist an enterprise considered advantageous to a desirable public or private venture of some kind. It was not always so.

From the 14th century, subsidies were special taxes granted by parliament to meet a particular need, and they were still present in Tudor times - as much as four shillings in the pound on land. Subsidies thus had an overwhelmingly negative set of connotations at the time, and it is this negative meaning which we need to bear in mind when we hear a defensive King Henry saying "I have not ... much oppressed them (his subjects) with great subsidies" (Henry VI Part 3, IV.viii.45) or when the rebellious Jack Cade is told that Lord Say "made us pay ... one shilling to the pound, the last subsidy" (Henry VI Part 2, IV.vii.20).

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