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'Domesday Book', engraving after a line drawing, from Andrew Williams, Historic Byways and Highways of Old England, 1900.

The Domesday Book is the record of the great survey of England completed in 1086, executed for William I of England, or William the Conqueror. While spending the Christmas of 1085 in Gloucester, William "had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).

One of the main purposes of the survey was to determine who held what and what taxes had been liable under Edward the Confessor; the judgment of the Domesday assessors was final—whatever the book said about who held the material wealth or what it was worth, was the law, and there was no appeal. It was written in Latin, although there were some vernacular words inserted for native terms with no previous Latin equivalent, and the text was highly abbreviated. The name Domesday comes from the Old English word dom (of which the Modern English doom is a descendant), meaning accounting or reckoning, with cognates in other Germanic languages. Thus domesday, or doomsday, is literally a day of reckoning, meaning that a lord takes account of what is owed by his subjects.[citation needed]. Richard FitzNigel, writing c. 1179, stated that the book was known by the English as 'Domesday', that is the Day of Judgement "for as the sentence of that strict and terrible last account cannot be evaded by any skilful subterfuge, so when this book is appealed to ... its sentence cannot be put quashed or set aside with impunity. That is why we have called the book 'the Book of Judgement' ... because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement, are unalterable."[1]

In August 2006, a complete online version of Domesday Book was made available for the first time by the UK's National Archives.

Contents

The Domesday Book

A page of the Domesday Book for Warwickshire.

The Domesday[2] Book is really two independent works. One, known as Little Domesday, covers Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. The other, Great Domesday, covers the rest of England, except for lands in the north that would later become Westmorland, Cumberland, Northumberland and County Durham. There are also no surveys of London, Winchester and some other towns. The omission of these two major cities is probably due to their size and complexity. Most of Cumberland and Westmorland are missing because they were not conquered until some time after the survey, and County Durham is lacking as the Bishop of Durham (William de St-Calais) had the exclusive right to tax Durham; parts of the north east of England were covered by the 1183 Boldon Book, which listed those areas liable to tax by the Bishop of Durham. The omission of the other counties has not been fully explained.

Despite its name, Little Domesday was actually larger as it is far more detailed, down to numbers of livestock. It has been suggested that Little Domesday represents a first attempt, and that it was found impossible, or at least inconvenient, to complete the work on the same scale for Great Domesday.

For both volumes, the contents of the returns were entirely rearranged and classified according to fiefs, rather than geographically. Instead of appearing under the Hundreds and townships, holdings appear under the names of the landholders ('tenentes'), i.e. those who held the lands directly of the crown in fee.

In each county, the list opened with the holdings of the king himself (which had possibly formed the subject of separate inquiry); then came those of the churchmen and religious houses in order of status (for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury is always listed before other bishops); next were entered those of the lay tenants-in-chief again in approximate order of status (aristocrats); and then king's serjeants (servientes) and English thegns who retained land.

In some counties, one or more principal towns formed the subject of a separate section; in some the clamores (disputed titles to land) were similarly treated separately. This principle applies more specially to the larger volume; in the smaller one the system is more confused, the execution less perfect.

Domesday names a total of 13,418 places.[3] Apart from the wholly rural portions, which constitute its bulk, Domesday contains entries of interest concerning most of the towns, which were probably made because of their bearing on the fiscal rights of the crown therein. These include fragments of custumals (older customary agreements), records of the military service due, of markets, mints, and so forth. From the towns, from the counties as wholes, and from many of its ancient Lordships, the crown was entitled to archaic dues in kind, such as honey.

The information of most general interest found in the great record is that on political, personal, ecclesiastical and social history, which only occurs sporadically and, as it were, by accident. Much of this was used by E. A. Freeman for his work on the Norman Conquest.

The survey

From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it is known that the planning for the survey was conducted in 1085, and from the colophon of the book it is known that the survey was completed in 1086. It is not known when exactly Domesday Book was compiled, but the entire copy of Great Domesday appears to have been copied out by one person on parchment (prepared sheepskin), although six scribes seem to have been used for Little Domesday. Writing in 2000, David Roffe argued that the inquest (the survey) and the construction of the book were two distinct exercises; the latter being completed, if not started, by William II following his assumption of the English throne and quashing of the rebellion that followed and based on, though not consequent on, the findings of the inquest.[4]

Most shires were visited by a group of royal officers (legati), who held a public inquiry, probably in the great assembly known as the shire court, which was attended by representatives of every township as well as of the local lords. The unit of inquiry was the Hundred (a subdivision of the county, which then was an administrative entity), and the return for each Hundred was sworn to by twelve local jurors, half of them English and half of them Normans.

What is believed to be a full transcript of these original returns is preserved for several of the Cambridgeshire Hundreds and is of great illustrative importance. The Inquisitio Eliensis, the Exon Domesday (so called from the preservation of the volume at Exeter), which covers Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, and the second volume of Domesday Book, also all contain the full details supplied by the original returns.

Through comparison of what details are recorded in which counties, six "circuits" can be determined (plus a seventh circuit for the Little Domesday shires).

  1. Berkshire, Hampshire, Kent, Surrey, Sussex
  2. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire (Exeter Domesday)
  3. Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex
  4. Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire
  5. Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire — the Marches
  6. Derbyshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire

Purpose

For the object of the survey, we have three sources of information:

After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out 'How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire.' Also he commissioned them to record in writing, 'How much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, and his abbots, and his earls;' and though I may be prolix and tedious, 'What, or how much, each man had, who was an occupier of land in England, either in land or in stock, and how much money it were worth.' So very narrowly, indeed, did he commission them to trace it out, that there was not one single hide, nor a yard of land, nay, moreover (it is shameful to tell, though he thought it no shame to do it), not even an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine was there left, that was not set down in his writ. And all the recorded particulars were afterwards brought to him.
  • The list of questions which the jurors were asked, as preserved in the Inquisitio Eliensis
  • The contents of Domesday Book and the allied records mentioned above.

Although these can by no means be reconciled in every detail, it is now generally recognised that the primary object of the survey was to ascertain and record the fiscal rights of the king. These were mainly:

  • the national land-tax (geldum), paid on a fixed assessment,
  • certain miscellaneous dues, and
  • the proceeds of the crown lands.

After a great political convulsion such as the Norman conquest, and the wholesale confiscation of landed estates which followed it, it was in William's interest to make sure that the rights of the crown, which he claimed to have inherited, had not suffered in the process. More especially was this the case as his Norman followers were disposed to evade the liabilities of their English predecessors. The successful trial of Odo de Bayeux at Penenden Heath less than a decade after the conquest was one example of the growing discontent at the Norman land-grab that had occurred in the years following the invasion. The survey has since been viewed in the context that William required certainty and a definitive reference point as to property holdings across the nation so that it might be used as evidence in disputes and purported authority for crown ownership.[5]

The Domesday survey therefore recorded the names of the new holders of lands and the assessments on which their tax was to be paid. But it did more than this; by the king's instructions it endeavoured to make a national valuation list, estimating the annual value of all the land in the country, (1) at the time of Edward the Confessor's death, (2) when the new owners received it, (3) at the time of the survey, and further, it reckoned, by command, the potential value as well. It is evident that William desired to know the financial resources of his kingdom, and it is probable that he wished to compare them with the existing assessment, which was one of considerable antiquity, though there are traces that it had been occasionally modified. The great bulk of Domesday Book is devoted to the somewhat arid details of the assessment and valuation of rural estates, which were as yet the only important source of national wealth. After stating the assessment of the manor, the record sets forth the amount of arable land, and the number of plough teams (each reckoned at eight oxen) available for working it, with the additional number (if any) that might be employed; then the river-meadows, woodland, pasture, fisheries (i.e. fishing weirs), water-mills, salt-pans (if by the sea) and other subsidiary sources of revenue; the peasants are enumerated in their several classes; and finally the annual value of the whole, past and present, is roughly estimated.

It is obvious that, both in its values and in its measurements, the survey's reckoning is very crude.

The rearrangement, on a feudal basis, of the original returns enabled the Conqueror and his officers to see with ease the extent of a baron's possessions; but it also had the effect of showing how far he had engaged under-tenants, and who those under-tenants were. This was of great importance to William, not only for military reasons, but also because of his firm resolve to make the under-tenants (though the "men" of their lords) swear allegiance directly to himself. As Domesday Book normally records only the Christian name of an under-tenant, it is not possible to search for the surnames of families claiming a Norman origin; but much has been done, and is still being done, to identify the under-tenants, the great bulk of whom bear foreign Christian names.

To a large extent, it comes down to the king's knowing where he should look when he needed to raise money. It therefore includes sources of income but not sinks of expenditure such as castles, unless their mention is needed to explain discrepancies between pre-and post-Conquest holdings. Typically, this happened in a town, where separately-recorded properties had been demolished to make way for a castle.

Subsequent history

Domesday Book was originally preserved in the royal treasury at Winchester (the Norman kings' capital). It was originally referred to as the Book of Winchester, and refers to itself as such in a late edition. When the treasury moved to Westminster, probably under Henry II, the book went with it. In the Dialogus de scaccario (temp. Hen. II.) it is spoken of as a record from the arbitrament of which there was no appeal (from which its popular name of Domesday is said to be derived). In the Middle Ages its evidence was frequently invoked in the law-courts; and even now there are certain cases in which appeal is made to its testimony.

It remained in Westminster until the days of Queen Victoria, being preserved from 1696 onwards in the Chapter House, and only removed in special circumstances, such as when it was sent to Southampton for photozincographic reproduction. Domesday Book was eventually placed in the Public Record Office, London; it can be now seen in a glass case in the museum at The National Archives, Kew, which is in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in South West London. In 1869 it received a modern binding. Most recently, the two books were rebound for its ninth centenary in 1986, when Great Domesday was divided into two volumes and Little Domesday was divided into three volumes. The ancient Domesday chest, in which it used to be kept, is also preserved in the building at Kew.

The printing of Domesday, in "record type", was begun by the government in 1773, and the book was published, in two volumes, in 1783; in 1811 a volume of indexes was added, and in 1816 a supplementary volume, separately indexed, containing

  1. The Exon Domesday—for the south-western counties
  2. The Inquisitio Eliensis
  3. The Liber Winton—surveys of Winchester late in the 12th century.
  4. The Boldon Buke—a survey of the bishopric of Durham a century later than Domesday.

Photographic facsimiles of Domesday Book, for each county separately, were published in 1861-1863, also by the government. Today, Domesday Book is available in numerous editions, usually separated by county and available with other local history resources.

In 1986, the BBC released the BBC Domesday Project, the results of a project to create a survey to mark the 900th anniversary of the original Domesday Book. In August 2006 the contents of Domesday went on-line, with an English translation of the book's Latin. Visitors to the website will now be able to search a place name, see the index entry made for the manor, town, city or village and, for a fee, download the appropriate page.

Although unique in character and invaluable to the student, scholars are unable to explain portions of its language and of its system. This is partly due to its very early date, which has placed a gulf between Domesday Book and later records that is difficult to bridge.

To the topographer, as to the genealogist, its evidence is of primary importance, as it not only contains the earliest survey of each township or manor, but affords, in the majority of cases, a clue to its subsequent descent.

Bibliography

  • Domesday book: a complete translation. London: Penguin, 2003. ISBN 0-14-143994-7.
  • Darby, Henry C. Domesday England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. ISBN 0 521 31026 1
  • Hallam, Elizabeth M. Domesday Book through Nine Centuries. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1986.
  • Keats-Rohan, Katherine S. B. Domesday People: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents, 1066–1166. 2v. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1999.
  • Holt, J. C. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1987. ISBN 0-85115-263-5
  • Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135: A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959. ISBN 0-19-821272-0
  • Maitland, F. W. Domesday Book and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-521-34918-4
  • Roffe, David. Domesday: The Inquest and The Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-820847-2
  • Roffe, David. Decoding Domesday. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2007. ISBN 978 1 84383 307 9
  • Vinogradoff, Paul. English Society in the Eleventh Century. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1908.
  • Wood, Michael. The Doomsday Quest: In Search of the Roots of England. London: BBC Books, 2005. ISBN 0-563-52274-7

Further reading

  • Darby, Henry C. & Campbell, Eila M. J. (1961) The Domesday Geography of South Eastern England
  • Darby, Henry C. & Maxwell, I. S. (1962) The Domesday Geography of Northern England
  • Darby, Henry C. & Finn, R. Welldon (1967) The Domesday Geography of South West England
  • Darby, Henry C. (1971) The Domesday Geography of Eastern England, 3rd ed.
  • Darby, Henry C. & Terrett, I. B. (1971) The Domesday Geography of Midland England, 2nd ed.
  • McDonald, John & Snooks, G. D. (1985) "Were the Tax Assessments of Domesday England Artificial?: the Case of Essex", in: The Economic History Review, New series, Vol. 38, No. 3, [Aug. 1985], pp. 352–72
  • Snooks, Graeme D. and McDonald, John. Domesday Economy: A New Approach to Anglo-Norman History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986 ISBN 0198285248
  • Hamshere, J. D. (1987) "Regressing Domesday Book: Tax Assessments of Domesday England, in: The Economic History Review, New series, Vol. 40, No. 2. [May 1987], pp. 247-51
  • Leaver, R. A. (1988) "Five Hides in Ten Counties: a Contribution to the Domesday Regression Debate", in: The Economic History Review, New series, Vol. 41, No. 4, [Nov. 1988], pp. 525–42
  • Bridbury, A. R. (1990) "Domesday Book: a Re-interpretation", in: English Historical Review, Vol. 105, No. 415. [Apr. 1990], pp. 284–309

Also useful are the volumes of the Phillimore series, one for each county (e.g. Thorn, C. et al. (eds.) (1979) Cornwall. Chichester: Phillimore) which contain the Latin in facsimile with an English translation.

See also

References

  1. ^ ed. C. Johnson, Dialogus de Scaccario, the Course of the Exchequer, and Constitutio Domus Regis, the King's Household, 64. London, 1950.
  2. ^ Pronounced /ˈduːmzdeɪ/ or sometimes /ˈdoʊmzdeɪ/: Merriam-Webster Online, Dictionary.com
  3. ^ "The Domesday Book". History Magazine. 2001-10. http://www.history-magazine.com/domesday.html. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  4. ^ Roffe, David: Domesday; The Inquest and The Book, pages 224-249. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  5. ^ Extraordinary privilege: the trial of Penenden Heath and the Domesday inquest, by Alan Cooper, The English Historical Review, 1 November 2001

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DOMESDAY BOOK, or simply Domesday, the record of the great survey of England executed for William the Conqueror. We learn from the English Chronicle that the scheme of this survey was discussed and determined in the Christmas assembly of 1085, and from the colophon of Domesday Book that the survey (descriptio) was completed in 1086. But Domesday Book (liber) although compiled from the returns of that survey, must be carefully distinguished from them; nor is it certain that it was compiled in the year in which the survey was made. For the making of the survey each county was visited by a group of royal officers (legati), who held a public inquiry, probably in the great assembly known as the county court, which was attended by representatives of every township as well as of the local lords. The unit of inquiry was the Hundred (a subdivision of the county which had then an administrative entity), and the return for each Hundred was sworn to by twelve local jurors, half of them English and half Normans. What is believed to be a full transcript of these original returns is preserved for several of the Cambridgeshire Hundreds, and is of great illustrative importance. The Inquisitio Eliensis, the "Exon Domesday" (so called from the preservation of the volume at Exeter), and the second volume of Domesday Book, also all contain the full details which the original returns supplied.

The original MS. of Domesday Book consists of two volumes, of which the second is devoted to the three eastern counties, while the first, which is of much larger size, comprises the rest of England except the most northerly counties. Of these the northwesterly portion, which had Carlisle for its head, was not conquered till some years after the survey was made; but the omission of Northumberland and Durham has not been satisfactorily explained. There are also no surveys of London, Winchester and some other towns. For both volumes the contents of the returns were entirely rearranged and classified according to fiefs. Instead of appearing under the Hundreds and townships they now appeared under the names of the local "barons," i.e. those who held the lands directly of the crown in fee. In each county the list opened with the holding of the king himself (which had possibly formed the subject of separate inquiry); then came those of the churchmen and religious houses; next were entered those of the lay tenants-in-chief (barones);° and last of all those of women, of the king's serjeants (servientes), of the few English "thegns" who retained land, and so forth. In some counties one or more principal towns formed the subject of a separate section; in some the clamores (disputed titles to land) were similarly treated apart. But this description applies more specially to the larger and principal volume; in the smaller one the system is more confused, the execution less perfect. The two volumes are distinguished even more sharply by the exclusion, in the larger one, of certain details, such as the enumeration of the live stock, which would have added greatly to its size. It has, indeed, been suggested that the eastern counties' volume represents a first attempt, and that it was found impossible, or at least inconvenient, to complete the work on the same scale.

For the object of the survey we have three sources of information: (1) the passage in the English Chronicle, which tells us why it was ordered, (2) the list of questions which the jurors were asked, as preserved in the Inquisitio Eliensis, (3) the contents of Domesday Book and the allied records mentioned above. Although these can by no means be reconciled in every detail, it is now generally recognized that the primary object of the survey was to acertain and record the fiscal rights of the king. These were mainly (1) the national land-tax (geldum), paid on a fixed assessment, (2) certain miscellaneous dues, (3) the proceeds of the crown lands. After a great political convulsion such as the Norman conquest, and the wholesale confiscation of landed estates which followed it, it was William's interest to make sure that the rights of the crown, which he claimed to have inherited, had not suffered in the process. More especially was this the case as his Norman followers were disposed to evade the liabilities of their English predecessors. The Domesday survey therefore recorded the names of the new holders of lands and the assessments on which their tax was to be paid. But it did more than this; by the king's instructions it endeavoured to make a national valuation list, estimating the annual value of all the land in the country, (1) at the time of King Edward's death, (2) when the new owners received it, (3) at the time of the survey, and further, it reckoned, by command, the potential value as well. It is evident that William desired to know the financial resources of his kingdom, and probable that he wished to compare them with the existing assessment, which was one of considerable antiquity, though there are traces that it had been occasionally modified. The great bulk of Domesday Book is devoted to the somewhat arid details of the assessment and valuation of rural estates, which were as yet the only important source of national wealth. After stating the assessment of the manor, the record sets forth the amount of arable land, and the number of ploughteams (each reckoned at eight oxen) available for working it, with the additional number (if any) that might be employed; then the river-meadows, woodland, pasture, fisheries (i.e. weirs in the streams), water-mills, saltpans (if by the sea) and other subsidiary sources of revenue; the peasants are enumerated in their several classes; and finally the annual value of the whole, past and present, is roughly estimated. It is obvious that, both in its values and in its measurements, the survey's reckoning is very crude.

Apart from the wholly rural portions, which constitute its bulk, Domesday contains entries of interest concerning most of the towns, which were probably made because of their bearing on the fiscal rights of the crown therein. These include fragments of custumals, records of the military service due, of markets, mints, and so forth. From the towns, from the counties as wholes, and from many of its ancient lordships, the crown was entitled to archaic dues in kind, such as honey. The information of most general interest found in the great record is that on political, personal, ecclesiastical and social history, which only occurs sporadically and, as it were, by accident. Much of this was used by E. A. Freeman for his work on the Norman Conquest. Although unique in character and of priceless value to the student, Domesday will be found disappointing and largely unintelligible to any but the specialist. Even scholars are unable to explain portions of its language and of its system. This is partly due to its very early date, which has placed between it and later records a gulf that is hard to bridge.

But in the Dialogus de scaccario (temp. Hen. II.) it is spoken of as a record from the arbitrament of which there was no appeal (from which its popular name of "Domesday" is said to be derived). In the middle ages its evidence was frequently invoked in the law-courts; and even now there are certain cases in which appeal is made to its testimony. To the topographer, as to the genealogist, its evidence is of primary importance; for it not only contains the earliest survey of a township or manor, but affords in the majority of cases the clue to its subsequent descent. The rearrangement, on a feudal basis, of the original returns (as described above) enabled the Conqueror and his officers to see with ease the extent of a baron's possessions; but it also had the effect of showing how far he had enfeoffed "under-tenants," and who those under-tenants were. This was of great importance to William, not only for military reasons, but also because of his firm resolve to make the under-tenants (though the "men" of their lords) swear allegiance directly to himself. As Domesday normally records only the Christian name of an under-tenant, it is vain to seek for the surnames of families claiming a Norman origin; but much has been and is still being done to identify the under-tenants, the great bulk of whom bear foreign names.

Domesday Book was originally preserved in the royal treasury at Winchester (the Norman kings' capital), whence it speaks of itself (in' one later addition) as Liber de Wintonia. When the treasury was removed to Westminster (probably under Henry II.) the book went with it. Here it remained until the days of Queen Victoria, being preserved from 1696 onwards in the Chapter House, and only removed in special circumstances, as when it was sent to Southampton for photozincographic reproduction. It was eventually placed in the Public Record Office, London, where it can be seen in a glass case in the museum. In 1869 it received a modern binding. The ancient Domes day chest, in which it used to be kept, is also preserved in the building.

The printing of Domesday, in "record type," was begun by government in 1773, and the book was published, in two volumes fol. in 1783; in 1811 a volume of indexes was added, and in 1816 a supplementary volume, separately indexed, containing (I) the "Exon Domesday" (for the south-western counties), (2) the Inquisitio Eliensis, (3) the Liber Winton (surveys of Winchester early in the 12th century), and (4) the Boldon Book - a survey of the bishopric of Durham a century later than Domesday. Photographic facsimiles of Domesday Book, for each county separately, were published in 1861-1863, also by government.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. - The following are the more important works to be consulted: - R. Kelham, Domesday Book, illustrated (1788); H. Ellis, General Introduction to Domesday Book (1833), 2 vols., containing valuable indexes to the names of persons; N. E. S. A. Hamilton, Inquisitio Cantabrigiensis (1876), containing the only transcripts of the original returns and the text of the Inquisitio Eliensis; E. A. Freeman, History of the Norman Conquest, vols. iv. and v.; F. Seebohm, The English Village Community (1883); Domesday Studies, 2 vols. (1888, 1891), on the occasion of the Domesday Commemoration (1886), by various writers, with bibliography to date; J. H. Round, Feudal England (1895); F. W. Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond (1897) P. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England (1892) and Growth of the Manor; A. Ballard, The Domesday Boroughs (1904) and The Domesday Inquest (1906), an excellent summary; W. H. Stevenson, "A contemporary description of the Domesday Survey" in The English Historical Review (the general index to which should be consulted) (1907). The Victoria County History contains a translation of the Domesday text, a map, and an explanatory introduction for each county. (J. H. R.)


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Wiktionary

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  • Doomsday Book

Noun

Domesday Book

  1. A record of the great survey of England carried out in 1086 for William the Conqueror.

Simple English

[[File:|thumbnail|250px|Page of the Domesday Book.]]

The Domesday Book is the record of the great survey of much of England, and parts of Wales, completed in 1086, done for William I of England, or William the Conqueror.

The Domesday Book (also known as 'Domesday', or 'Book of Winchester') was a record of all taxable land in England, together with such information as would indicate its worth.[1]

As the scribes went round England, they were protected by William's armed men. Each group was led by a Royal Commissioner, who took a list of standard questions. A 'jury' of local nobility and citizens answered the questions. All answers were written down in Latin.[2]

Information was collected from the start of 1086, and working up into the complete volume started later that year. William died in 1087 before the writing-up work was completed.

William the Conqueror wished to know the details of the land he had conquered, England. He let his knights and barons have big areas of land, and wanted rent money from them. The Domesday Book was a record of every farm, village and house so that he knew how much rent he should get. Only some small villages in the country side are not in the book. Major cities like London and Winchester are also not in the Domesday Book, perhaps because of their size, or because (not owning land), the people could not be taxed.

The Domesday book gave the names of King William's friends and even listed the number of pigs on a piece of land. But it was not like a modern census. It did not give the names of all the people. It listed the heads of each household, but left out Londoners, monks, nuns, and anyone living in castles.[3] In effect, it listed only people he could get rent from, and who might supply men to fight in his army.

Contents

Volumes

The Domesday Book is two volumes. One of the books was called Great Domesday, and the other was called Little Domesday.[2] The draft of the second volume, Little Domesday, was never worked up, but no doubt was used for tax collection just the same.

Name

The Domesday book got its name because its lists were so complete that it reminded people of the Last Judgment (which people also call Doomsday, or Domesday) in Christianity, when lists of what people have done go before God for people to be judged.[4]

References

  1. "William had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Domesday Book Online - Frequently Asked Questions". domesdaybook.co.uk. http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk/faqs.html#12. Retrieved December 19, 2010. 
  3. Domesday Book [1]
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