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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Domesday Book

The Domesday book, a summary of William the Conqueror's survey of England was completed in 1086. It was a complete census of all land and livestock in England to help the king know the scope of his kingdom so that he could levy tax.

It was made up of two books, one 382 pages, (“Little Domesday covering Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex) and the other 450 pages  ("Great Domesday" covering much of the remainder of England and parts of Wales). Both were written in Latin.

It was claimed "no hide nor yard of land was there left out", This was not strictly true as four northern shires and a number of towns such as Lincoln were missed. Also no surveys were made of London and Winchester, probably due to their tax-exempt status.

In the Domesday Book, the total rental value of the land (most of England and Wales) was an estimated £73,000 a year: about £2.6 billion ($4.2 billion) in today’s money.

A page of Domesday Book for Warwickshire

William the Conqueror himself never read it, as he was illiterate.

The Domesday book lists over 5,500 water mills used to grind grain to produce flour for the population south of the River Severn  and Trent. It also mentions Britain’s first named cheese, Cheshire cheese.

The Domesday Book wasn’t known as the Domesday Book for a hundred years after it was written. Richard FitzNeal wrote circa 1179 in the Dialogus de Scaccario:

When this book is appealed to ... its sentence cannot be 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.

The Domesday Book is now held at The National Archives at Kew, London. In 2011 the Open Domesday site made the manuscript available online.

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