This tax was introduced during the middle ages by European governments. It lasted a long time. In the UK, this remained in existence for around 200 years and finally repealed in 1835.
It would explain the myth that we have about people not being hygienic hundreds of years ago as simply many Europeans couldn’t afford to be. Some people around the middle ages have gone on record to say that the introduction of soap tax “kicked up a stink”.
In England, Oliver Cromwell oversaw this tax for a period, though this is hardly surprising as there isn’t much good that can be said about this man. This is the man that hated the royalists, charged them a tax and used that money to attack them in a civil war. So he was a royal hating man, he also hated anything that involved fun. Loved to extort people with some strange taxes though.
Oliver Cromwell was also a religious man, a Puritan (16th and 17th century group of reformed Protestants who sought to purify the Church of England from all Roman Catholics). God fearing Puritans thought that being too clean was ungodly, therefore Mr Cromwell approved of the tax.
So between the god-fearing members of society such as Cromwell himself and the poor paupers that couldn’t afford the soap tax, England really was honking.
When the royal family was restored under Charles II, he kept the tax in place. Though he was not god fearing, or had no objections to anyone being clean, he was happy for the tax to be in place as he was happy to make money from people happy to clean themselves. They had some strange thoughts back then.
Charles II would take this seriously though. He went to great lengths to ensure that no soap was being sold on the sly on black markets and therefore tax dodging. The King would have representatives watching soap makers to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere it shouldn’t be.
When it was finally repealed, England had one big bath to celebrate the occasion. The two hundred years England ponged is probably to blame for the environment now.
If anyone thinks that the current government are extortionists, just feel lucky that you can at least give yourself a good scrub once in a while without having to pay tax for the pleasure (and the pleasure of the person sitting next to you). 21st century 1-0 Oliver Cromwell and Charles II.