The Domesday (Doomsday) Book is a survey that was taken by William the Conqueror in 1086, that gathered statistical information about England. The survey is very similar to the census that is taken by governments today. It was revolutionary because it showed a high level of detail that existed during the Middle Ages, a time when the population was considered to be uneducated and disorganized. William had recently conquered the country by defeating his brother Harold in 1066, and he wanted to learn more about the country he ruled. Having statistical information on the country would allow him to make better administrative decisions.
In addition to being a brilliant leader on the battlefield, the Domesday books shows that he was a genius at administrative issues as well. He formulated the project during the winter of 1085, and he commanded his commissioners to journey to each shire in the country to learn more about the land that was held by each and every landholder. Information about livestock needed to be gathered as well. Not only were the commissioners commanded to gather the information on the land and livestock that existed in the country, they had to measure the value of it as well. The primary purpose of doing this survey was to find out how much the landholders could be taxed for their property.
Once the commissioners had made a decision about the property that was owned by a landholder, the decision was final, and it could not be appealed under any circumstances. The Domesday document was written mostly in Latin, rather than the native language that was commonly used by citizens of the country. However, there were a few terms that were translated into the native tongue. A copy of this document was recently made available over the Internet by The National Archives. The document is also referred to as being the Doomsday book because of its finality, though it has nothing to do with the Last Judgement that is found in books like the Bible.
Original Authors: Stephen Palmer
Edit Update Authors: RPN
Updated On: 06/02/2007