Likhovski on “One of the Best Parts of Writing the Book”–His Sources

In a second clip from our 3-part interview,  series author Professor Assaf Likhovski describes the joy of discovering unexpected sources, and how those same sources fundamentally shaped his project. You can read more about Professor Likhovski’s book, Tax Law and Social Norms in Mandatory Palestine and Israel (Cambridge University Press, 2017), here. If you missed part one of the interview–in which Professor Likhovski provides an overview of his book–you can catch up here. The third and final clip is also available on the SLH website. A transcription of the interview, lightly edited for clarity, follows.

When I began writing my book, I used rather conventional sources, such as case law and archival documents found in governmental archives (such as the British National Archives or the Israel State Archives). But, as time progressed, I discovered that I had more interest in writing the social history of tax compliance, rather than just focusing on the official, top-down governmental history. And so I moved to really exciting sources–such as propaganda posters, tax movies, children’s poems, and literature dealing with tax compliance and tax non-compliance. And these sources were found in archives which were not conventional archives. For example, in the book I discuss a really fascinating institution, called the Tax Museum, which exists in Jerusalem. And this is a museum that displays objects related to taxation, but also contains a small archive with fascinating visual materials related to the history of tax compliance in Israel.

I really enjoyed actually discovering these materials which not many people—I think nobody before me—has thought relevant for the writing of tax history in Israel. And it was a great experience doing the research for the project; it was actually one of the best parts of writing the book.

There were some sources that were missing; for example, in chapter four of my book, I discuss the history of tax compliance in the Arab sector of Israeli society in the 1950s, and it was very difficult to find sources discussing tax compliance among Arabs in that period. I used some sources from the state comptroller’s office, but I could not come across many relevant sources, apart from official documents about the Arabs–which are obviously biased because they represent the point of view of the government, rather than Arab taxpayers. So this is a part of my book that I feel could have been better had I been able to use more sources that I could not find.

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