Throughout history, not many people have been very fond of taxes being raised or new taxes appearing. And that is even true as far back as 1200 when the small sleepy medieval town of Gotham played an incredible rouse all to get out of paying taxes.
Gotham a small town outside of Nottingham goes down in urban legend English history for avoiding a King’s tax during medieval times. Peasants in medieval times actually had much more to do with legal matters than you may think. For example, there was even council of peasants that dealt with matters like land disputes. This led to the people being quite knowledgeable about Law and legalities. So like any great politician of our age, whenever they could they would twist the law to reach their own needs.
As the story goes back to the 13th century King John decided that he had to visit Nottingham. This was because he had decided to build a hunting lodge near the village of Gotham. Now you may think that the locals would have been happy to have been picked as a prestigious hunting ground of the King. This, however, was far from the case.
The shrewd locals of Gotham realized that any road used by the King would automatically become a King’s Road. This would consequently attract quite a large new tax on the locals. Gotham was just a small village breeding goats, any sort of big tax would be a disaster for their rural community. So the sneaky locals decided they had to do anything they could to ensure King John never passed through Gotham. They decided they had to appear insane.
Madness was thought to be an infectious disease at the time, something you could just catch. As the King’s representatives started to arrive, the whole village pretended to be completely mad. They sheltered wood from the sun and built a hedge around a bush. They rolled cheese down the hill, telling the cheese to go to the Nottingham market to sell itself! They even attempted to drown a fish.
And the tricks all worked. The King never set foot in Gotham village and even took a completely different road to Nottingham. In fact, their ruse was so well played that for generations to come people who were actually suffering from madness were referred to as locals from Gotham. This term continued even 600 years later when Irving described the plague of crime in New York City as a “modern-day Gotham.”