Domesday Book

Domesday Book

The Domesday Book is strongly associated with the aim of William the Conqueror's to control Medieval England. It was created to provide William with a lot of authority within England, along with an array of castles.

William I declared a book should be made with information about the country’s ownership, so he could assert his grip on England even more. This would also inform him of tax he was owed and as the information had been recorded, no one could argue over a demand on tax. The book impacted the English population with ‘doom and gloom’ hence its title Domesday. It contained the final verdict owed by someone, similar to Judgement Day where souls would be judged to enter Heaven or Hell.

William’s order of the English survey would happen around 20 years since the infamous Battle of Hastings. According to the Saxon Chronicle it occurred in 1085, however other sources claim it was in 1086. In total, the entire survey was completed in under a year and the Public Records Office now hold the books.

Page excerpt from the Domesday Book
Page excerpt from the Domesday Book

The Domesday Book consists of an impressive record of England’s state during the mid-1080s.

Questions asked of landowners in the Domesday Book refer to the number of ploughs they own; the number of villagers, freemen and slaves in the manor; the amount of meadow, woodland and pasture; and the worth of the manor.

Norman officials considered the results and would punish unfairly for giving information which was not true. A type of farm manager from a manor known as the reeve, and six peasants were all asked questions for each manor visited.

These questions were for discovering how much tax was owed to the king by a manor. William could also be informed who owned the sections of land and the cost of each. Overall the book contains a list of the different manors, their owners and values.

The book also includes information about the financial worth of the land before the Norman conquest, and its worth afterwards.

The Domesday Book holds some very interesting facts about Sussex - namely, the section surrounding Pevensey and Hastings which had 15 manors badly attacked, so much that they were called ‘waste’ (waste land) by men who were sent to collect information to include in the Domesday Book. It can be guessed how severely the area was impacted by Norman invasion from this. Other areas of East Sussex had difficulty surviving too.

The Domesday Book provides historians with a good idea of English life during 1085 and 1086, but it did in fact neglect to mention major cities like Winchester and London. Altogether, 13,418 places were visited and it was a monk who produced the last record in Winchester.

Each person was requested to pay the king taxes, and this meant no other lord or nobleman had the ability to successfully challenge William with an exclusive army, and William could access money to make his army bigger.

William died in 1087 before seeing the Domesday Book’s positive benefits. But William II who was his successor managed to since he was aware that once he became king, he would have knowledge of who needed to still give him money and which lords were likely to give him a hard time because of their recorded wealth.

See also: Sussex and the Domesday Book

MLA Citation/Reference

"Domesday Book". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.