Submitted by megamindwriter t3_106ib3i in history

As per the title.

Government departments or Ministries are a modern thing. They were not present in medieval time periods. Including government budgets. Medieval monarchs were ruled by the crown and privy council.

When were they invented?

When did having a Minister of Finance or Minister of anything become a thing? Including formulating a budget that sets the expenditures of the country on a yearly basis?

Were these things even present during the Medieval era?



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ricardo9505 t1_j3htt3r wrote

Even in Ancient Rome even Greece, taxes were collected. For the army, for the infrastructure, aqueducts & bridges, etc. Way more advanced than medieval monarch kingdoms.


megamindwriter OP t1_j3igja5 wrote

I know, they used tax farmers. The question is when did bureaucries become more advanced, like forming governmental departments and formulating budgets.


War_Hymn t1_j3ir661 wrote

There are archeological records of state revenue and expense going back to clay cuineform tablets of the early Sumerian city-states 4000-5000 years ago.

I feel you might have some misconception about how ancient governments wasn't as simple as some king or duke sitting on his throne and handing out a handful of silver or gold whenever something needs to be paid for.

By the late bronze age, there were highly developed states like Egypt or Zhou China that had an extensive and sophisticated bureaucracies in place to manage state affairs and track money coming in and out. Middle/Late Kingdom Egypt alone had a population of 2-3 million people - trying to govern this much people without keeping records or delegating to departments would had been very difficult.


megamindwriter OP t1_j3j8hmn wrote

Yes, I did have misconceptions. Thanks for the answer.


basementthought t1_j3l6cdd wrote

One interesting related fact is that most early writing is not stories or personal letters but records. We initially used writing to keep track of finances trade and laws. It took some time for people to start writing literature down


YourOverlords t1_j3oyb9t wrote

I think the medieval period was the rebuilding of western civilization following the the fall of Rome in 476. With the typical idea of it being the so called "dark ages", it's a fair cop to think like that.


Thuis001 t1_j3le1ny wrote

Writing was invented for this exact purpose. The whole goal of writing originally was to keep track of shit like taxes, storage and expenditures.


InspectorRound8920 t1_j3khnmk wrote

I'll bet they've always been around, but that's the stuff that isn't written about.

I guess it depends on the area in question though


Esotewi t1_j3ibjgn wrote

Confucius who is now almost deified in China used to be a minister of public works and minister of justice 2500 years ago.

You had political factionalism between ministers split between the left and right wing in the court of Qin Shi Huang.

So I would guess at least 3000 years ago?


RSwordsman t1_j3hp2q9 wrote

Bureaucracy existed well before the middle ages. It could just be that European systems favored a more centralized government with less delegation structure for their agents.

It's safe to say that after the manorial system, it came about with the rise in republican government as a good way to divide power among several officials.


Bentresh t1_j3ihhvc wrote

Yes, as the Wiki article correctly notes, highly complex systems of administration and bureaucracy had already developed by the Bronze Age.

To add a few relevant publications:


dutchwonder t1_j3pqtg9 wrote

Late Roman empire represents a switch from the very decentralized (and very, very light) bureaucracy to a much more hands on approach that was highly influential.

Problem is, its very expensive, but it was better than going through the third century crisis again.


Peter_deT t1_j3jwj25 wrote

Departments and state finance have been around a long time. Budgets much less so. Medieval governments did not have budgets - they had expenses and revenue and tried to keep the two in line with borrowings and irregular taxes (there were also regular taxes). Probably only England had a high degree of central accounting from around 1000 CE. Others had royal personal revenues, dues from subordinate units, a crown domain, revenues raised by administrative units directly (the director of the mint takes a cut as his pay or similar - very common up to the 18th century), often spread across multiple jurisdictions with different tax structures. So a ruler struggled to get a consolidated picture of revenue and expenses, and most did not bother. It was only from the late many European C18 states started to copy Britain and Prussia and have annual budgets.


War_Hymn t1_j3ioboo wrote

>They were not present in medieval time periods.

Why you say that? Throughout history, even small feudal kingdoms had certain state functions delegated out to courtiers and offices. Such positions or offices include Chancellor of the Exchequer in England (which was established in 1316 and still exists and functions today as the UK's ministry of finance).


Chlodio t1_j3l9juh wrote

I thought that strange assumption as well.

I'm not sure what OP thinks the privy council was, but he should know that it was composed of "great officers of the crown", who were much more than advisors, as they were all in charge of their respective departments (e.g. the chancellor drafted laws, and had an army of judges under him that he would dispatch to solve issues), for all intends and purpose, they were ministers.


Hattix t1_j3i0of8 wrote

The Roman Empire had a bureaucracy. Indeed, Diocletian reformed the bureaucracy by founding administrations in Mediolanum (Milan), Nicomedia (Izmit), Trier (Treves) and Antioch. These bureaucracies streamlined the running of a large empire, together with Diocletian's partitioning of that empire, which cut the cost of operating the empire.


Party_Broccoli_702 t1_j3jiii2 wrote

I believe there is plenty of evidence of rulers delegating tasks, giving individuals specific titles, and managing finances since the beginning of history.

Certainly in ancient Rome, Persia, Greece, China and Egypt just to name a few.


Throwawayeieudud t1_j3jlnoj wrote

i’m not a history expert or anything but from these comments it sounds like you may be assuming that because Medieval Europe lacked government departments, all of history up to that point did too


feochampas t1_j3l2vcf wrote

probably the same time writing was invented.

you dont keep track of taxes unless you intend to do something about it.


AnaphoricReference t1_j3lfmfa wrote

The Estates General of the Dutch Republic had a yearly budget in the 17th-18th and a formal process to approve it. But interestingly it had only four categories of expenses on the budget: Repayment of debts, War, Water management, and the Representative office of the Estates General (tasked mostly with negotiations), with Repayment of debts and War always taking most if it (even in peace time).

Still it was apparently light years ahead of enemies in budget keeping, since it always paid lower rates for debts and never defaulted on repayments, while regularly bankrupting kings like those of Spain and France during wars.

One of those Representatives of the Estates General (in practice a sort of PM), Johan de Witt, is credited with laying the scientific foundations of financial mathematics and contributing to the formalization of probability with his paper 'The worth of Life Annuities compared to Redemption bonds' which is discussed in letters between Bernouilli and Leibniz. The topic of the paper is of course a very practical matter for a guy tasked with negotiating the conditions of big loans.


0D_E_V0 t1_j3lhv27 wrote

Umm. Medieval Times were the most backwards human times in the entire human history. Like Greek and Indian medicines were highly advanced in early historical eras, with even the instances of surgery and plastic surgery present, meanwhile medieval Times believed that farts cure diseases.

About budgets and departments, they were pretty common. Like Romans had separate tax collection and budget for building Aquaducts. There were centralised governments present in Ancient India where they had separate departments and funds for tackling things like droughts. Meanwhile Ancient China had a functioning bureaucracy and compititive exams to hire them.


Shawn_NYC t1_j3lv58d wrote

Egypt 5,000 years ago. Egypt became one of humanity's first great powers through taxation, budgeting, and bureaucracy.


Few_Scallion_2744 t1_j3lamtu wrote

I believe the ancient romans had their ruling administration divided into different components and with budgets too - obviously the names would be different than now but the general concept is more or less the same,


bloonail t1_j3krvrk wrote

There are records of taxes, allocations and splitting up of resources from 2400BC. Its sorta the basics of writing.


beaghord t1_j3l764n wrote

Diocletian anticipated these before the medieval period


Ashleyempire t1_j3lk01h wrote

When you could basically short the economy.


Sataniel98 t1_j3loidh wrote

Early 19th century. The principle of departments is a child of the French revolution. What was before is essentially different from that. It's especially visible for example in Prussia, where the reforms of Stein and Hardenberg clearly replaced the old institutions with ministries Germany more or less has until today.

Prior to that, there were no parallels at all between the branches of administration. Matters of foreign policy were mostly done by the king, diplomats and whoever had influence (though a minister of foreign affairs had existed shortly before the reforms), the "secretaries" in the "cabinet" were office assistants who served directly under the king but did few to no decision making, the archaic privy council still existed but had lost all of its responsibilities other than matters concerning the church, and the Generaldirektorium was responsible for almost everything from war to taxes to finances to the royal domain and royal prerogatives.

The Generaldirektorium was partitioned into territorial districts that all had different laws, levels of sovereignty (Prussia was still part of the HRE after all) and a member of the Direktorium that was supposed to work on it. Some members had leading positions or were regarded as experts on certain matters, but in the end, their responsibility wasn't for a department, but for their district, and in addition, everyone was responsible for the work of the Generaldirektorium as a whole. Newly acquired provinces in Franconia and Poland were managed differently. Some members were also diplomats, members of the privy council, landed nobility, and most were in the military.

England, that some other commentors have written about, is probably the worst example because it can only be one for itself. Its constitutional tradition is entirely different from continental Europe. The UK avoided clear breakages and kept many of its archaisms at least in name, so it's much harder to narrow down when it had finished evolving into a modern state. However, the influence of the French revolution of course was there and decisive.


IamSauerKraut t1_j3m5x7b wrote

Some folks thing the UK started with "departments" during the days of Oliver Cromwell and his Rump Parliament, but monarchs long before him had men who ran different parts of the kingdom for centuries before the 17th century.


sdg9998 t1_j3z0qmm wrote

Medieval guildhalls are usually associated with "professional association of artisans/craftsmen" kinda thing, but guildhalls were also used by local municipalities for tax collection and were the first entities to transform in city halls. wouldn't the municipal authority of collection of taxes be considered the forerunner of a modern government department?


WhatNoHead t1_j4lzvvm wrote

Good question! I almost forgot about the whole thing till I got taxed for not voting last year, had the fine framed and everything :)

Cost more than the fine which sucks though.