Ship money, in British history, a nonparliamentary tax first levied in medieval times by the English crown on coastal cities and counties for naval defense in time of war. It required those being taxed to furnish a certain number of warships or to pay the ships’ equivalent in money. Its revival and its enforcement as a general tax by Charles I aroused widespread opposition and added to the discontent leading to the English Civil Wars.
After bitter constitutional disputes, Charles dismissed Parliament in 1629 and began 11 years of personal rule; during this time, deprived of parliamentary sources of revenue, he was forced to employ ship money as a financial expedient. The first of six annual writs appeared in October 1634 and differed from traditional levies in that it was based on the possibility of war rather than immediate national emergency. The writ of the following year increased the