The Domesday Book is actually two large books that contain detailed records of everybody’s landholdings and wealth in medieval England and took a year to compile.
The main purpose of the Domesday book was to raise taxes and William the Conqueror who had conquered England in the battle of Hastings in 1066 ordered its creation, he wanted to know exactly who held the land and wealth in England so that he could decide how much he could tax each person throughout England.
Before William the conqueror had even invaded England in 1066 he knew that the country held vast wealth and that there was a very efficient taxation system already in place, being the clever and scheming person that he was William had probably already thought about the compilation of a Domesday Book before he had even conquered the country at the Battle of Hastings.
The Domesday book was completely down to King William who authorized its compilation.
The Domesday Book was a survey of the land and resources held and owned in England in 1086 which was commissioned by William the Conqueror, its purpose was to decide the extent of how much tax could be raised.
William the Conqueror sent out officials to every town, city, and village in England to compile a more detailed and accurate record of people’s land and wealth than was already available.
New information was written down carefully and copied into the Domesday Book, the officials working for King William also checked to make sure that information already obtained was accurate and up-to-date.
“An entry made about the Domesday book in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which was written by English monks states that “he had everything investigated so thoroughly that there was not one single yard of land nor one cow or pig that was left out”
All the peoples of England whether they were rich or poor were shocked by this intrusion into their lives in such detail, and inquiries being made into their landholdings by a hostile invading king, people likened it to having their souls looked into on judgment Day so they decided to call it the Domesday book.
The French Normans now owned the land of England and it was all recorded in the Domesday book, however, the Normans were satisfied with many of the English systems that were already in place and left them alone.
Although the Domesday book made tax collecting more accurate and a lot easier for the new Norman rulers many of the things that were in place before stayed exactly the same.
Tax collecting, the law courts, and most English people’s lives did not change that much.
The introduction of the Domesday Book did not have much of an effect on peasants, they still continued to work their land which they rented from the Lord just as they had done before the Domesday Book.
The peasant also continued to hand over a 10th (or tithe) of everything they produced, the church paid taxes to the King just as before.
William the Conqueror and the French Normans had certainly come to England to get rich and the Domesday book was designed to find out exactly who owned land and to accurately list people’s wealth.
This was very unpopular and this is how the Domesday book got its name.
The Normans demanded more from the people of England than ever before and some could hardly afford the additional payments that had to be made, whilst others were forced to work had not done so before.
In 1100 there was some good news for peasants who still had to stay and work the land but were given more rights.
See the original Domesday Book at the National Archives