Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Tax on Birth.—In 1694 an act was passed in England for “granting to His Majesty certain rates and duties upon marriages, births and burials, upon bachelors and widowers for the term of five years, for carrying on the war against France with vigour.” The taxes were graduated, rising from four shillings on the burial of the humblest person to £50 in the case of a duke or duchess. The duty on births varied according to the rank of the parents. A duke paid £30 on the birth of an eldest son, and £25 for every other child; a baronet or knight, £5 for an eldest son, and £1 each for other children. An archbishop or bishop, or a doctor of divinity, law or physic paid £1 for every child; a gentleman having a personal estate of £600 or a real estate worth £50 per annum, paid ten shillings on the birth of each child. Every other person not receiving alms paid a tax of two shillings on the birth of each child. This measure, however, was only temporary, and passed for revenue purposes solely.

BĪRŪNĪ [Abū-r-Raiḥān Muḥammad al-bīrūnī] (973-1048), Arabian scholar, was born of Persian parentage in Khwārizm (Khiva), and was a Shi‘ite in religion. He devoted his youth to the study of history, chronology, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and medicine. He corresponded with Ibn Sīnā (see Avicenna), and the answers of the latter are still preserved in the British Museum. For some years he lived in Jurjān, and then went to India, where he remained some years teaching Greek philosophy and learning Indian. In 1017 he was taken by Maḥmūd of Ghazni to Afghanistan, where he remained until his death in 1048. His   Athār ul-Bākiya (Vestiges of the Past) was published by C. E. Sachau (Leipzig, 1878), and a translation into English under the title The Chronology of Ancient Nations (London, 1879). His History of India was published by C. E. Sachau (London, 1887), and an English translation (2 vols., London, 1888). Other works of his, chiefly on mathematics and astronomy, are still in manuscript only.

See C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (Weimar, 1898), vol. i. pp. 475-476.

 (G. W. T.) 

BISALTAE, a Thracian people on the lower Strymon (Struma; Karasu, “black water”), in the district between Amphipolis and Heraclea Sintica on the east and Crestonice on the west. They also made their way into the peninsulas of Acte and Pallene in the south, beyond the river Nestus in the east, and are even said to have raided Cardia. Under a separate king at the time of the Persian wars, they were annexed by Alexander I. (498-454 B.C.) to the kingdom of Macedonia. At the division of Macedonia into four districts by the Romans after the battle of Pydna (168) the Bisaltae were included in Macedonia Prima (Livy xlv. 29).

Their country was rich in figs, vines and olive trees; the silver mines in the mountain range of Dysorum brought in a talent a day to their conqueror Alexander. The Bisaltae are referred to by Virgil (Georgics, iii. 461) in connexion with the treatment of the diseases of sheep. The fact that their eponymus is said to have been the son of Helios and Ge points to a very early settlement in the district.

See Smith’s Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography; M. Ihm in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie, iii. part i. (1897); W. Tomaschek, Die alten Thraker (Vienna, 1893); and for the coins of the Bisaltic kings, B. V. Head, Historia Numorum, p. 178.

BISCAY (Vizcaya), a maritime province of northern Spain; bounded on the N. by the Bay of Biscay, E. by Guipúzcoa, S. by Álava and W. by Burgos and Santander. Pop. (1900) 311,361; area, 836 sq. m. A small strip of isolated territory within the borders of Biscay, on the west, is officially included in the province of Santander. Biscay is one of the Basque Provinces, and its name is occasionally employed as geographically equivalent to Basque, in that case including the three provinces of Biscay proper, Guipúzcoa and Álava. The coast-line, which extends from Ondarroa to a short distance east of Castro Urdiales, is bold and rugged, and in some places is deeply indented. The surface of the country is for the most part very mountainous, being traversed towards the south by the great Cantabrian chain; but at the same time it is diversified with numerous narrow valleys and small plains. Some of the mountains are almost entirely composed of naked calcareous rock, but most of them were formerly covered to their summits with forests of oaks, chestnuts or pine trees, now destroyed to provide fuel. Holly and arbutus are common, and furze and heath abound in the poorer parts. The only river of any size is the Nervion, Ansa or Ibaizabal, on which Bilbao is situated; the others, which are numerous, are merely large mountain streams. The climate is rather inclement and variable; but the thermometer seldom drops below freezing-point, nor does snow fall frequently in winter except on the highest summits. The rainfall is on an average greater than in any province except those of the extreme north-west. The soil, though not very fertile, except in some of the valleys and sheltered hillsides, produces wheat, maize, barley, rye, flax, grapes, peaches, apples and other fruits. The mountainous slopes of Biscay are studded with the traditional Basque caserio, or farm-house, in which the peasantry live on the métayer system, dividing the profits of the soil with absentee landlords. The farms are generally small, and are for the most part tilled by manual labour. The fisheries are actively prosecuted along the coast by a hardy race of fishers, who were the first of their craft in Europe to pursue the whale, formerly abundant in the Bay of Biscay. Cod, bream, tunny and anchovy are the principal fish taken. The fishing fleet consists of several hundred boats, manned by nearly 5000 men and boys. Biscay is very rich in minerals. Iron of the finest quality is found in almost every part, and forms a main article of export. At the beginning of the 20th century an average of about 5,000,000 tons was produced every year, and many large foundries were at work. Lead and zinc are mined in much smaller quantities, alum and sulphur are also present, and marble, lime and sandstone are abundant. Another very important industry is the manufacture of dynamite and other explosives at Baracaldo, closely connected with the mining interests. There are also potteries, paper, soap and shoe factories, flour mills and breweries, and the many mineral springs and spas are frequented by people from all parts of Spain. The mining and industrial interests of Biscay were very materially assisted by the quick and important development of means of communication of every kind. The provincial and parish roads, kept up by the local government, are excellent. No province in Spain had at the beginning of the 20th century such a complete network of railways, all built since 1870.

Bilbao (pop. 83,306), the capital and principal port, and Baracaldo (15,013), an important industrial town, are described in separate articles. Sestao (10,833) is the only other town of more than 10,000 inhabitants; the port of Bermeo (9061) is the chief fishing station; Durango (4319), on the river of the same name, was founded by the early kings of Navarre in the 10th century, obtained the rank of a countship in 1153, and contains one of the oldest churches in the Basque Provinces, San Pedro de Tavira; Guernica (3250), a picturesque village on the river Mondaca, was until 1876 the meeting-place of the provincial parliament. The deputies assembled under an old oak-tree, celebrated by the Basque poet, José Maria Iparraguirre, in a song which is regarded by the Spanish Basques almost as a national anthem. For the history of the Basques, see Basque Provinces; for their origin, language and customs, see Basques. The inhabitants of Biscay are intelligent, enterprising and well-educated; and, owing to the uniformly high birth-rate, low death-rate, and very slight loss by emigration, their numbers increased rapidly during the latter part of the 19th century, until in 1900 the density of population (372.4 per sq. m.) was greater than in any other Spanish province.

BISCAY, BAY OF (Fr. Golfe de Gascogne; Sp. Golfo de Vizcaya), an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean; bounded on the E. and N.E. by France, as far as the island of Ushant, and on the S. by Spain as far as Cape Ortegal. The Bay of Biscay is the Sinus Aquitanicus, Sinus Cantabricus or Cantaber Oceanus of the Romans; hence it is sometimes known as the Cantabrian Sea. Its modern English name is a corrupt form of the Spanish Vizcaya. The bay forms a fairly regular curve, broken on the French seaboard only by the estuaries of the Loire, Garonne, Adour and other rivers. The rugged Spanish coast is indented by many