The Making of Domesday Book

The Making of Domesday Book

The Making of Domesday Book

The Making of Domesday Book

Excerpt

In the year 1085 William the Conqueror spent Christmas at Gloucester. There, according to a famous entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he had 'very deep speech with his Witan about this land and how it was peopled and with what sort of men'. The result of these deliberations was the Domesday Survey, a minute and searching inquiry into the extent and value, both of the royal demesne, and of the lands held by the tenants-in- chief. For this purpose the king sent his men into every shire, and the information, extracted on oath from the inhabitants, was written down and returned to the royal Treasury at Winchester. The contemporary permanent record record of this vast undertaking still survives in the two volumes of Domesday Book . For more than seven centuries they were preserved in the royal Treasury, from which they were transferred in the early nineteenth century to the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. Domesday Book is thus our oldest 'public record' and the true starting-point of English administrative history.

The example set by the Conqueror was followed by his successors, and it is reasonable to suppose that the Domesday Inquest was the precedent and exemplar for those recurring special inquiries with which our history is punctuated to the close of the Middle Ages. Outstanding among these was the scheme collecting a carucage in 1198, described by Stubbs as 'a new Domesday Inquest', and the repeated and detailed, inquiries of Edward I, familiar to us as the Quo Warranto and the Hundred Rolls . Of the great inquiry of 1279, for example, Professor Cam . . .

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