Sunday, February 12, 2006

Peppercorn rents

In my upcoming lecture on the Gracchi I refer to "peppercorn rents." Tiberius Gracchus, when he became tribune in the 130s BCE wanted to reform the Roman state by distributing state-owned land to poorer Roman citizens, instead of allowing the rich to rent huge estates at "peppercorn rents." A republic with many landowners would be healthier and more military capable than one where poor Romans -- including soldiers and veterans -- were increasingly forced off the land.

I expect I'll have explain the phrase "peppercorn rents" which is rare in Canada but still alive in Britain and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. An online tax guide from South Australia defines "peppercorn rent" as a "nominal rent," i.e. an insignificant sum. The traditional peppercorn rent was "one peppercorn."

If you search the web for examples of "peppercorn rents" you might find some interesting sites. For instance, there is on the British History Online site a Historical gazetteer of London before the Great Fire which has minute details of downtown London properties like St. Pancras Soper Lane 145/27 which once upon a time was let out for an unspecified peppercorn rent.

Of course, there's more recent stuff as well. There's a BBC article for instance on Prince Michael of Kent's "peppercorn rent" for apartments at Kensington Palace
. Price of a peppercorn? 69 British pounds a week. Still, pretty cheap for royal digs in Central London.


Blogger Another Damned Medievalist said...

Is that in Appian, Steve?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

The text we used in class was an excerpt from Plutarch's Life of Tiberius Gracchus, as found, thanks to Paul Halsall and others, in the Internet Ancient Sourcebook.

3:38 PM  

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