In this volume an international team of scholars builds up a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal history of Europe over six centuries. It forms a fundamental starting-point for an understanding of the distinctiveness of the emerging European states, and highlights the issue of fiscal power asan essential prerequisite for the development of the modern state. The study underlines the importance of technical developments by the state, its capacity to innovate, and, however imperfect the techniques, the greater detail and sophistication of accounting practice towards the end of the period. New taxes had been developed, new wealth had been tapped, newmechanisms of enforcement had been established. In general, these developments were made in western Europe; the lack of progress in some fiscal systems, especially those in eastern Europe, is an issue of historical importance in its own right and lends particular significance to the chapters onPoland and Russia. By the eighteenth century `mountains of debt' and high debt-revenue ratios had become the norm in western Europe, yet in the east only Russia was able to adapt to the western model by 1815. The capacity of governments to borrow, and the interaction of the constraints on borrowingand the power to tax had become the real test of the fiscal powers of the `modern state' by 1800-15.