Domesday Book

Domesday book

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 had ordered it’s 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.

The Domesday book and William the Conqueror

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 authorised its compilation.

Domesday Book

Reculver in the domesday book

Domesday book definition

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.

How was the Domesday book compiled

William the Conqueror sent out officials to every town, city and village in England to compile a more detailed and accurate record of peoples 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’s which were 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”

How Domesday book got its name

All the peoples of England whether they were rich or poor were shocked by this intrusion into their lives in such detail, and enquiries being made into their landholdings by a hostile invading king, people likened it to having their souls looked into on judgement Day so they decided to call it the Domesday book.

The Domesday Book

King William ordered the Domesday book to be compiled

The Domesday book & the Lords of the land

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 peoples lives did not change that much.

The Domesday book and peasants

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.

Summary of the Domesday book

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 who still had to stay and work the land but were given more rights.

Domesday book facts:

  • The Domesday book listed very detailed information of what people owned in medieval England
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a record of events written by English monks
  • William the conqueror invaded England probably because of its wealth
  • Detailed information was accurately recorded in two books
  • The Domesday book is actually two books not one
  • Because of the amount of information in the Domesday book they are huge books
  • The English felt they were having their souls weighed up on judgement Day
  • Everything recorded in the Domesday book was legally binding
  • There was no system of appeal against recorded information in the Domesday book
  • The Domesday book was written in medieval Latin
  • Over 13,418 places are recorded in the Domesday book
  • Royal officers travelled across England making the detailed entries for the Domesday book
  • The Domesday book contains many mistakes and inaccurate entries
  • The manuscript of the Domesday book is housed at the National archives in London
  • It is not known exactly when the Domesday book was compiled
  • Surprisingly the Domesday book took only a year to compile
  • There was a rebellion against the findings of Domesday book that was quashed by King William
  • Most shires were visited by royal officials compiling the Domesday book
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