Not the Last Judgment, but secular fiscal policy: the extensive records of William the Conqueror concerning his subjects

Great Domesday Book

United Kingdom — 1086

Great Domesday Book

Great Domesday Book

United Kingdom — 1086

  1. King William the Conqueror (ca. 1028–1087) commissioned a survey of his newly acquired kingdom in 1085

  2. The King’s men combed the length and breadth of England to determine the tax burden of the country's towns and villages

  3. The name commonly applied to the manuscript first appeared in 1221 and is an allusion to the Last Judgement

Great Domesday Book

Alternative Titles:
  • Das große Buch vom Jüngsten Tag
Great Domesday Book  – National Archives (London, United Kingdom)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Twenty years after he won the Kingdom of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror ordered a census of his new realm that would not be surpassed in scope and detail until the late 19th century. The massive tome was used by the kings of England to determine the taxes owed to them. Its name “Domesday” is a reference to the Apocalypse, indicating that the contents of the book are as final as the Last Judgement.

Great Domesday Book

“Then, at the midwinter [1085], was the king in Gloucester 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’.”
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
This famous tome was completed in 1086 at the behest of King William the Conqueror (ca. 1028–1087) in order to record the findings of the “Great Survey” described above. This was used by William and his successors to determine what taxes and other dues they could expect, and the extent of royal land holdings. It is written in Latin, with some vernacular where Latin equivalents did not exist. An invaluable source on medieval England for modern historians and economists, no other survey approaching the scope and extent of the Domesday Book was made in Britain for nearly 800 years until the 1873 Return of Owners of Land, referred to as the “Modern Domesday”. Neatly written in black ink with red flourishes, corrections were made by crossing the words out with red ink and replacing them with text written in red. Most villages and towns in England are listed – 13,418 place names in total – save for those cities with tax exempt status, like London, areas in the North not yet under royal control, or territories where the local bishop had the exclusive right to taxation. It originally consisted to two volumes that were later combined: the “Little Domesday” covering much of Southern England, physically smaller but more detailed, and the “Great Domesday” covering the rest of England with less detail but more systematically. The name commonly applied to the manuscript first appeared in 1221 and is an allusion to the Last Judgement, i.e. doomsday or “domesday” according to contemporary English. This was, according to Richard FitzNeal (ca. 1130–98), royal treasurer to William the Conqueror’s grandson King Henry II (1133–89) because:
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 skillful 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.”

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Das große Buch vom Jüngsten Tag
Date
1086
Language
Content
Census and land survey of the year 1086

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Great Domesday Book “

The Millennium Edition
Great Domesday Book  – National Archives (London, United Kingdom)
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The Millennium Edition

2 volumes: Exact replica of the original (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Alecto Historical Editions – Salisbury , 2000
Limited Edition
450 copies
Binding
The two-volume facsimile of Great Domesday is bound in brown calfskin to the 12th Century design of the earliest known Domesday binding, the Winton Domesday. A matching box containing modern Ordnance Survey maps with overlaid Domesday sites.
More Information
The facsimile edition comes with a two-volume modern English translation, typeset so that the text follows the original handwritten script line-for-line. These volumes are superbly hardbound within a linen spine and hand-made paper sides. The editions comes with: A people and places index volume, bound to match the translation. A matching box containing modern Ordnance Survey maps with overlaid Domesday sites.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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