The Domesday Book is a record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror.
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What is the Domesday Book?
The Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The surviving original manuscripts containing the survey data are held at The National Archives in London. The name “Domesday Book” came into use in the 12th century.
The first drafts of the survey were prepared at Winchester in late 1085, and the final versions were sent to London early in 1086. The record consists of two parts, Little Domesday and Great Domesday. Most of the information for Great Domesday Book was gathered before Christmas 1085, but Little Domesday, which covers only Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, was not finished until Whitehorse Day (May 6) in 1086.
The history of the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the Domesday Survey was conducted in 1085, but it was not actually finished until 1086. In Old English, Domesday Book is called Codex Rotulus Domus Regis, or “the Book of the Rolls of the Kings’ Houses.” The name derives from its original binding, which consisted of several large sheets of vellum (prepared animal skin) rolled into a scroll. It is believed that only one copy of the Domesday Book was ever made.
The Domesday Book consists of two distinct parts. The first part, called Little Domesday (Liber Censualis or Liber Vulgus), covers Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex; and parts of Kent, Hertfordshire, and Middlesex. Little Domesday is so called because it is much shorter than the second part, which covers the rest of England (excluding London) plus Wales and Herefordshire. This section is often referred to as Great Domesday (Liber Magnificus or Liber de Wintonia).
Both sections are organized into counties (called shires in old English), with each county divided into large administrative units called Hundreds. For example, Norfolk was divided into 60 Hundreds; Essex had 38; Suffolk had 37; Sussex had 30; and so forth. Within each Hundred there were also smaller units called Wapentakes or Liberties.
The surveyors who compiled the Domesday Book recorded all sorts of information about each county: how many manors there were; how many taxpaying homeowners; what kind of agricultural land there was; how many pigs and sheep could graze on the pastures; what types of buildings were in each village; how much income each lord received from his tenants; how much tax revenue went to the king, and so on. All this information was then summarized in what became known as “The Great Writ.”
Although it is called a book, the Domesday record is really more like a huge database—an extremely detailed inventory that provides an unprecedented snapshot not only of late 11th-century England but also of medieval life in general.
How the Domesday Book was used
The Domesday Book was a record of all the landholdings in England at the time of William the Conqueror. It was used to raise taxes and to settle disputes about property ownership.
The contents of the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is a detailed record of all the landholdings in England, compiled in 1086 on the orders of William the Conqueror.
The book provides an extraordinary insight into life in England nearly a thousand years ago, and is an invaluable resource for historians, genealogists, and anyone interested in the country’s past.
The Domesday Book consists of two volumes. The first volume, known as Little Domesday, covers the counties of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk. The second volume, Great Domesday, covers the rest of England.
Each volume is divided into sections known as ‘circuits’. Within each circuit there are entries for each parish or manor.
The entries for each parish or manor give details of the landholdings, population, economy, and other features of interest.
The significance of the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is a unique and invaluable record of the great land survey, carried out for William the Conqueror in 1086. It provides detailed insights into life in late 11th-century England and has been used by historians ever since to help understanding of the period.
The legacy of the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is one of the most famous documents in English history. It is a record of the ‘Great Survey’ of England and Wales ordered by William the Conqueror in 1086. The survey’s purpose was to collect information about the ownership and value of all the land in England and Wales. The Domesday Book was a written record, but it also included information from an earlier survey which had been recorded on animal skins (known as parchment).
The Domesday Book is an important source of information for historians because it provides a snapshot of life in England and Wales in the late 11th century. It is also one of the earliest examples of a national census.
Although it was commissioned by William the Conqueror, the Domesday Book was not completed until 1086, after his death. The survey was carried out by royal officials known as ‘the king’s commissioners’. They travelled around England and Wales, collecting information from landowners, tenants, church leaders and other people who had knowledge of the land.
The Domesday Book contains records for about 13,000 villages, towns and manors in England and Wales. It does not include Scotland, Ireland or London (which were not part of England at that time).
Each entry in the Domesday Book includes:
-the name of the place
-the name of the lord or owner of the land
-the name of the person who held the land before 1066 (known as ‘tenant-in-chief’)
-a description of the land
-details of any buildings or resources on the land
-how much tax was owed on the land
The Domesday Book in modern times
First compiled in 1873, The Domesday Book is a record of all the lands held by William the Conqueror as recorded in the great survey he ordered shortly after the Norman Conquest of England. The book, which was written in Latin, is a remarkable document not only for its age but also for its scope and detail.
Over the centuries, The Domesday Book has been used for a variety of purposes, including taxation and land disputes. In modern times, it is perhaps best known as a fascinating window into life in England more than 900 years ago.
The future of the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The surviving manuscripts consist of two parts, Little Domesday and Great Domesday. The latter, which is the more voluminous and detailed record, covers Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridge.
The Domesday Book was not originally intended as a land registry; rather, it was a record of all those who owned land in England in 1086 as a way for the king to assess what everyone owed him in taxes. Though it was used for this purpose for centuries after its creation, the Domesday Book’s real significance lies in the information it provides about life in England nearly 1,000 years ago. It is an invaluable resource for historians studying everything from architecture to agriculture in late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England.
In recent years, scholars have began to reassess the Domesday Book’s value as a historical document. While it remains an immensely useful source of information, some have argued that its value has been exaggerated by historians who have read too much into it. Critics have also noted that the survey was not comprehensive (it excludes London and several other important settlements) and that it was heavily biased towards those with motives to inaccurately represent their holdings (such as magnates who wished to appear richer than they were).
Despite these criticisms, the Domesday Book remains one of the most important sources of information about late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England. It is an essential text for anyone interested in this period of English history.
FAQs about the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The surviving volume contains records for 13,418 settlements in the counties of Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. The name “Domesday Book” (Middle English for “Doomsday Book”) came into use in the 12th century.
In addition to providing evidence for the existence and land holdings of Norman magnates and their households, Domesday Book also includes information on English landholdings before the Norman Conquest, giving insight into pre-Conquest society. Its arrival can be seen as marking the beginning of a new era in English history – one in which the king was supreme and had direct control over his realm, rather than exercise power through feudal relationships with his nobility.
Further reading on the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book is one of the most important documents in English history. It is a record of the great survey of England, which was ordered by William the Conqueror in 1086. The survey was conducted by royal commissioners, who visited every county in England and recorded what they found there.
The Domesday Book contains a wealth of information about medieval England, including details about land ownership, agricultural production, and population levels. It is an invaluable resource for historians and genealogists alike.
If you would like to learn more about the Domesday Book, there are a number of excellent books and articles that have been published on the subject. Here are just a few:
-The Domesday Book: A Complete Translation, edited by Ann Williams and G. H. Martin (Penguin, 2002)
-The Domesday Book: England’s Heritage then and now, edited by Frederik Barbarich ( country Living/Hodder & Stoughton, 1986)
-Domesday Explorer: An Introduction to the Domesday Book for Family Historians, by Dr. John Palmer (Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd., 2002)