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Doomsday Book

Medieval life and Times

Important Facts about the Doomsday Book - 1086
Interesting information and important facts:

  • The document is also known as the Doomsday Book, the Book of Winchester and the Great Survey
  • The Middle English spelling of Doomsday is Doomsday
  • The document was first held in Winchester and then moved to Westminster

  • What is the Doomsday book? It was a survey, or census, commissioned by the Norman Conqueror King William I, of his newly conquered lands and possessions in England. It was intended to document "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". This great survey enabled the Normans and William the Conqueror to administer England and levy taxes
  • Key Dates relating to the event: The survey was completed in 1086
  • When was the first draft of the Doomsday Book completed? The first draft was completed in 1085 and the document was completed by 1086
  • Key People relating to the event: William the Conqueror commissioned the great survey
  • Why the great Doomsday Book was famous and important to the history of England: William the Conqueror ordered this Norman survey of all the lands and possessions of England in order to assist with the Norman administration of England and impose relevant taxes. It also enabled William the Conqueror the ability to ensure that all landholders and tenants swore allegiance to him - a major requirement of feudalism or the Feudal System
  • It was first referred to as the Doomsday book in the 1300's
  • Why was the Doomsday survey given this name? The English gave it this title as a clear Biblical reference to the last Day of Judgement as there was no appeal against the survey, it became the law of the land

Interesting Information about the History of the Doomsday Book
Interesting information and important facts about the history of the Doomsday Book. Less than twenty years after his coronation William the Conqueror ordered a survey and valuation to be made of the whole realm outside of London. The only exceptions were certain border counties on the north where war had left little to record except for heaps of ruins and ridges of grass-grown graves. The returns of the survey were known as the Doomsday or Doomsday Book.

The English people said this name was given to it, because, like the Day of Doom, it spared no one. It recorded every piece of property and every particular concerning it. As the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" indignantly declared, "not a rood of land, not a peasant's hut, not an ox, cow, pig, or even a hive of bees escaped."

Whilst the report showed the wealth of the country, it also showed the suffering it had passed through in the rebellions against William the Conqueror. Many towns had fallen into decay. Some were nearly depopulated. In the reign of Edward the Confessor the city of York had 1607 houses; at the date of the survey it had only 967, whilst Oxford, which had had 721 houses, had then only 243.

The census and assessment proved of the highest importance to William the Conqueror and his successors. The people indeed said bitterly that the King kept the Doomsday, or Doomsday book constantly by him, in order "that he might be able to see at any time of how much more wool the English flock would bear fleecing." The object of the Doomsday, or Doomsday book, however, was not to extort money, but to present a full and exact report of the financial and military resources of the kingdom which might be directly available for revenue and defence.

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