English Legal History and its Materials
Plunkett on pg. 12 writes that the Domesday Book was "so respected that it was called simply 'the record', so great was its authority."

I was wondering how the Domesday Book could have had as much authority as it did when I'm assuming the demographics of Medieval England must have changed relatively quickly such that the information it contained became very out of date. How long was the Domesday Book relied on by English authorities? Why was there no attempt to update the book? Was there any equivalent of such a record on the Continent? How did the book assist in the administration of the government of England beyond aiding in the collection of taxes?

-- MichaelCoburn - 09 Sep 2014

The Domesday Book was commissioned by William the Conqueror who dispatched a survey to assess all of the land throughout England. As king, he had the right to levy a land-tax. Called a geld or danegeld, the land-tax existed as early as 991 A.D. [1] Although the land-tax was abolished by Edward the Confessor around the year 1051, William reinstated it as a means of raising money for the Crown. [2] Reasons for conducting the land survey recorded in the Domesday Book were twofold. [3] Firstly, no similarly comprehensive survey had been conducted since the Roman occupation in England. Secondly, William wished to reform the previous system, which had over time accumulated many special provisions granting certain landowners favorable treatment. [4]

The Domesday Book continued to be relied on for many centuries. Particularly, it was used as evidence of boundaries amongst vills and other geographical units. [5] It was also used as proof of land-ownership. [6]

One reason the Domesday Book has achieved long-lasting influence is that it provides a picture of feudal England, with its hierarchies clearly articulated. [7] Indeed, this may have been another motivation for the rigid definitions of social classes in the book. [8]

A relatively recent attempt was made to create a new snapshot in England in the spirit of the original Domesday Book in 1986. [9] Over a million people participated in documenting British life. The project was reloaded in 2011 to give participants the opportunity to update their Domesday entries. [10]

[1] Maitland, The Domesday Book and Beyond, pg. 3. [2] Maitland, pgs. 3--4. [3] Survey questions available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/normans/doomsday_01.shtml. [4] Maitland, pg. 4. [5] Maitland, pgs. 12, 14--15. [6] http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/domesday/discover-domesday/domesday-legacy.htm [7] Maitland, pgs. 170--71 [8] Plucknett, Concise History, pg. 517. [9] http://www.atsf.co.uk/dottext/domesday.html [10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday/story

-- AllysonMackavage - 10 Sep 2014



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r2 - 10 Sep 2014 - 03:02:14 - AllysonMackavage
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