The distribution of wealth is one of the most controversial issues in history. There are powerful forces pushing both towards greater equality and away from it. In 19th century Europe, conservative political forces feared that the newly enfranchised poor would use their power to expropriate the wealth of the rich. And democratization did in fact lead to the introduction of wealth taxes in several countries. Yet since the 1980s the distribution of capital has become more unequal. Surprisingly, the rising inequality has not been tackled by an increase in tax progressivity, and support for wealth taxes has diminished. This talk aims to shed light on the politics of wealth taxation in Europe since their rise in the 19th century. In particular, I am interested in the contribution of left-wing parties and organized labor and in the response of these forces to such major economic and political shocks as the two World Wars and the Great Depression.