DOMESDAY BOOK (/ˈduːmzdeɪ/ or US : /ˈdoʊmzdeɪ/ ;
Liber de Wintonia "Book of
Then, at the midwinter , was the king in Glocester with his council ... . After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire."
It was written in Medieval Latin , was highly abbreviated , and included some vernacular native terms without Latin equivalents. The survey's main purpose was to determine what taxes had been owed during the reign of King Edward the Confessor , which allowed William to reassert the rights of the Crown and assess where power lay after a wholesale redistribution of land following the Norman conquest .
The assessors' reckoning of a man's holdings and their values, as recorded in Domesday Book, was dispositive and without appeal. The name "Domesday Book" ( Middle English for "Doomsday Book") came into use in the 12th century. As Richard FitzNeal wrote in the Dialogus de Scaccario (circa 1179):
for as the sentence of that strict and terrible last account cannot
be evaded by any skilful subterfuge, so 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
The book is an invaluable primary source for modern historians and
historical economists. No survey approaching the scope and extent of
* 1 Content and organisation * 2 Name * 3 Survey * 4 Purpose
* 5 Subsequent history
* 5.1 Custodial history * 5.2 Binding * 5.3 Publication
* 6 Importance * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 Bibliography * 10 Further reading * 11 External links
CONTENT AND ORGANISATION
"Little Domesday" – so named because its format is physically smaller than its companion's – is the more detailed survey, down to numbers of livestock. It may have represented the first attempt, resulting in a decision to avoid such level of detail in "Great Domesday".
Both volumes are organised into a series of chapters (literally
Latin caput, "a head") listing the fees (knight\'s
fees or fiefs , broadly identical to manors ), held by a named
tenant-in-chief of the king (who formed the highest stratum of Norman
feudal society below the king), namely religious institutions,
Bishops, Norman warrior magnates and a few Saxon thegns who had made
peace with the Norman regime. Some of the largest such magnates held
several hundred fees, in a few cases in more than one county. For
example, the chapter of the
Each county's list opened with the king's demesne lands (which had possibly been the subject of separate inquiry). It should be borne in mind that under the feudal system the king was the only true "owner" of land in England, under his allodial title . He was thus the ultimate overlord and even the greatest magnate could do no more than "hold" land from him as a tenant (from the Latin verb teneo, "to hold") under one of the various contracts of feudal land tenure . Holdings of Bishops followed, then of the abbeys and religious houses, then of lay tenants-in-chief and lastly the king's serjeants (servientes), and Saxon thegns who had survived the Conquest , all in hierarchical order.
In some counties, one or more principal towns formed the subject of a separate section: in some the clamores (disputed titles to land) were also treated separately. This principle applies more specially to the larger volume: in the smaller one, the system is more confused, the execution less perfect.
Domesday names a total of 13,418 places. Apart from the wholly rural portions, which constitute its bulk, Domesday contains entries of interest concerning most of the towns, which were probably made because of their bearing on the fiscal rights of the crown therein. These include fragments of custumals (older customary agreements), records of the military service due, of markets, mints , and so forth. From the towns, from the counties as wholes, and from many of its ancient lordships, the crown was entitled to archaic dues in kind, such as honey . (In a parallel development, around 1100 the Normans in southern Italy completed their Catalogus Baronum based on Domesday Book.)
The manuscripts do not carry a formal title. The work is referred to
internally as a descriptio (enrolling), and in other early
administrative contexts as the king's brevia (writings). From about
1100, references appear to the liber (book) or carta (charter) of
To the English, however, who held the book in awe, it became known as
"Domesday Book", in allusion to the
The book is metaphorically called by the native English, Domesday, i.e., the Day of Judgement. For as the sentence of that strict and terrible last account cannot be evaded by any skilful subterfuge, so when this book is appealed to on those matters which it contains, its sentence cannot be quashed or set aside with impunity. That is why we have called the book "the Book of Judgement", ... not because it contains decisions on various difficult points, but because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement, are unalterable.
The name "Domesday" was subsequently adopted by the book's custodians, being first found in an official document in 1221.
Either through false etymology or deliberate word play , the name
also came to be associated with the
Latin phrase Domus Dei ("House of
God"). Such a reference is found as early as the late 13th century, in
the writings of
Adam of Damerham ; and in the 16th and 17th centuries,
antiquaries such as
John Stow and Sir Richard Baker believed this was
the name's origin, alluding to the church in
The usual modern scholarly convention is to refer to the work as "Domesday Book" (or simply as "Domesday"), without a definite article. However, the form "the Domesday Book" is also found in both academic and non-academic contexts.
Most shires were visited by a group of royal officers (legati), who held a public inquiry, probably in the great assembly known as the shire court. These were attended by representatives of every township as well as of the local lords. The unit of inquiry was the Hundred (a subdivision of the county, which then was an administrative entity). The return for each Hundred was sworn to by 12 local jurors, half of them English and half of them Norman .
What is believed to be a full transcript of these original returns is
preserved for several of the
Through comparison of what details are recorded in which counties, six Great Domesday "circuits" can be determined (plus a seventh circuit for the Little Domesday shires).
Three sources discuss the goal of the survey:
After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out 'How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire.' Also he commissioned them to record in writing, 'How much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, and his abbots, and his earls;' and though I may be prolix and tedious, 'What, or how much, each man had, who was an occupier of land in England, either in land or in stock, and how much money it were worth.' So very narrowly, indeed, did he commission them to trace it out, that there was not one single hide, nor a yard of land, nay, moreover (it is shameful to tell, though he thought it no shame to do it), not even an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine was there left, that was not set down in his writ. And all the recorded particulars were afterwards brought to him.
* The list of questions asked of the jurors was recorded in the
* The contents of
The primary purpose of the survey was to ascertain and record the fiscal rights of the king. These were mainly:
* the national land-tax (geldum), paid on a fixed assessment, * certain miscellaneous dues, and * the proceeds of the crown lands.
After a great political convulsion such as the Norman conquest, and the following wholesale confiscation of landed estates, William needed to reassert that the rights of the Crown, which he claimed to have inherited, had not suffered in the process. His Norman followers tended to evade the liabilities of their English predecessors. The successful trial of Odo de Bayeux at Penenden Heath less than a decade after the conquest was one example of the Crown's growing discontent at the Norman land-grab of the years following the invasion. Historians believe the survey was to aid William in establishing certainty and a definitive reference point as to property holdings across the nation, in case such evidence was needed in disputes over Crown ownership.
The Domesday survey therefore recorded the names of the new holders
of lands and the assessments on which their tax was to be paid. But it
did more than this; by the king's instructions, it endeavoured to make
a national valuation list, estimating the annual value of all the land
in the country, (1) at the time of
Edward the Confessor 's death, (2)
when the new owners received it, (3) at the time of the survey, and
further, it reckoned, by command, the potential value as well. It is
evident that William desired to know the financial resources of his
kingdom, and it is probable that he wished to compare them with the
existing assessment, which was one of considerable antiquity, though
there are traces that it had been occasionally modified. The great
The organisation of the returns on a feudal basis, enabled the
Conqueror and his officers to see the extent of a baron's possessions;
and it also showed to what extent he had under-tenants, and the
identities of the under-tenants. This was of great importance to
William, not only for military reasons, but also because of his
resolve to command the personal loyalty of the under-tenants (though
the "men" of their lords) by making them swear allegiance to himself.
The survey provided the King with information on potential sources of funds when he needed to raise money. It includes sources of income but not expenses, such as castles, unless they needed to be included to explain discrepancies between pre-and post-Conquest holdings of individuals. Typically, this happened in a town, where separately-recorded properties had been demolished to make way for a castle.
Domesday chest, the German-style iron-bound chest of c.1500 in
The two volumes (Great Domesday and Little Domesday) remained in
Westminster until the 19th century, being held at different times in
various offices of the
Exchequer (the Chapel of the Pyx of Westminster
Abbey ; the Treasury of Receipts; and the Tally Court). On many
occasions, however, the books were taken around the country with the
Exchequer: for example to
From the 1740s onwards they were held, with other
Chapter House of
In modern times, the books have been removed from London on only a few exceptional occasions. In 1861–3 they were sent to Southampton for photozincographic reproduction ; in 1918–19, during World War I , they were evacuated (with other Public Record Office documents) to Bodmin Prison , Cornwall; and similarly in 1939–45, during World War II , they were evacuated to Shepton Mallet Prison , Somerset.
The volumes have been rebound on several occasions. Little Domesday was rebound in 1320, its older oak boards being re-used. At a later date (probably in the Tudor period ) both volumes were given new covers. They were rebound twice in the 19th century, in 1819 and 1869, on the second occasion by the binder Robert Riviere . In the 20th century, they were rebound in 1952, when their physical makeup was examined in greater detail; and yet again in 1986 for the survey's ninth centenary. On this last occasion Great Domesday was divided into two physical volumes, and Little Domesday into three volumes.
The project to publish Domesday was begun by the government in 1773, and the book appeared in two volumes in 1783, set in "record type " to produce a partial-facsimile of the manuscript. In 1811, a volume of indexes was added. In 1816 a supplementary volume, separately indexed, was published containing
Exon Domesday —for the south-western counties
* The Inquisitio Eliensis
Liber Winton —surveys of
Photographic facsimiles of Domesday Book, for each county separately, were published in 1861–1863, also by the government. Today, Domesday Book is available in numerous editions, usually separated by county and available with other local history resources.
In 1986, the
In 1986, memorial plaques were installed in settlements
can have nothing but admiration for what is the oldest 'public record' in England and probably the most remarkable statistical document in the history of Europe. The continent has no document to compare with this detailed description covering so great a stretch of territory. And the geographer, as he turns over the folios, with their details of population and of arable, woodland, meadow and other resources, cannot but be excited at the vast amount of information that passes before his eyes.
The author of the article on the book in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica noted, "To the topographer, as to the genealogist, its evidence is of primary importance, as it not only contains the earliest survey of each township or manor, but affords, in the majority of cases, a clue to its subsequent descent."
Darby also notes the inconsistencies, saying that "when this great
wealth of data is examined more closely, perplexities and difficulties
arise." One problem is that the clerks who compiled this document
"were but human; they were frequently forgetful or confused." The use
Roman numerals also led to countless mistakes. Darby states,
"Anyone who attempts an arithmetical exercise in
Roman numerals soon
sees something of the difficulties that faced the clerks." But more
important are the numerous obvious omissions, and ambiguities in
presentation. Darby first cites F. W. Maitland 's comment following
his compilation of a table of statistics from material taken from the
* ^ "Domesday Book". Merriam-Webster Online.
* ^ "Domesday Book". Dictionary.com.
* ^ A B "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle". Translated by Giles, J. A. ;
Ingram, J. Project Gutenberg. 1996. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
* ^ Note: One common abbreviation was TRE, short for the Latin
Tempore Regis Eduardi, "in the time of King Edward (the Confessor)",
meaning the period immediately before the Norman conquest
* ^ Emerson, Ralph Waldo & Burkholder, Robert E. (Notes) (1971).
The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: English Traits. 5. Harvard
University Press. p. 250.
* ^ Johnson, C., ed. (1950). Dialogus de Scaccario, the Course of
the Exchequer, and Constitutio Domus Regis, the King's Household.
London. p. 64.
* ^ "Domesday at Lincoln Castle".
* ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (13 May 2011). "Domesday Reloaded project:
The 1086 version".
* Darby, Henry C. (1977). Domesday England. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 0-521-31026-1 .
* Domesday Book: A Complete Translation. London: Penguin. 2003. ISBN
* Hallam, Elizabeth M. (1986).
* "Phillimore series", published by Phillimore one pair of volumes or "parts" for each county (Part 1: Latin text and translation; Part 2: notes). Example: Thorn, C. et al. (eds.) (1979) Cornwall. Chichester: Phillimore. * Bates, David (1985). A Bibliography of Domesday Book. Woodbridge: Boydell. ISBN 0-85115-433-6 . * Bridbury, A. R. (1990). "Domesday Book: a re-interpretation". English Historical Review. 105: 284–309. doi :10.1093/ehr/cv.ccccxv.284 . * Darby, Henry C. (2003). The Domesday Geography of Eastern England. Domesday Geography of England. 1 (revised 3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521893968 . * Darby, Henry C.; Terrett, I. B., eds. (1971). The Domesday Geography of Midland England. Domesday Geography of England. 2 (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521080789 . * Darby, Henry C.; Campbell, Eila M. J., eds. (1961). The Domesday Geography of South-East England. Domesday Geography of England. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521047706 . * Darby, Henry C.; Maxwell, I. S., eds. (1977). The Domesday Geography of Northern England. Domesday Geography of England. 4 (corrected ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521047730 . * Darby, Henry C.; Finn, R. Welldon, eds. (1979). The Domesday Geography of South West England. Domesday Geography of England. 5 (corrected ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521047714 . * Finn, R. Welldon (1973). Domesday Book: a guide. London: Phillimore. ISBN 0-85033-101-3 . * Snooks, Graeme D.; McDonald, John (1986). Domesday Economy: a new approach to Anglo-Norman history. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-828524-8 . * Hamshere, J. D. (1987). "Regressing Domesday Book: tax assessments of Domesday England". Economic History Review. n.s. 40: 247–51. doi :10.2307/2596690 . * Leaver, R. A. (1988). "Five hides in ten counties: a contribution to the Domesday regression debate". Economic History Review. n.s. 41: 525–42. doi :10.2307/2596600 . * McDonald, John; Snooks, G. D. (1985). "Were the tax assessments of Domesday England artificial?: the case of Essex". Economic History Review. n.s. 38: 352–72. doi :10.2307/2596992 . * Sawyer, Peter, ed. (1985). Domesday Book: a reassessment. London: Edward Arnold. ISBN 0713164409 .
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