My husband landed in the hospital, keeping me away from my computer for the last several days, so I’m reprising an old post from 2013 about the Domesday Book, a fascinating document from the Middle Ages.
No, that heading is not a spelling error.
Recently I had the good fortune to spend some time, and alas, too much money, in a couple of used book stores in Prescott, AZ. I came across this gem:
This is one volume of the Domesday Book, for “Derby Scire”, or, in our modern spelling, “Derbyshire”.
The Domesday Book is the record of a rigorously thorough census of England, checked and double-checked for payoffs and corruption, and completed in 1086, twenty years after the Battle of Hastings. In the history of conquest, twenty years is enough time for a new ruler to realize a need for an itemized list of the wealth and population of a conquered land. For tax purposes, of course, but also as a reckoning of what belonged to whom once the dust of battle had settled. In the words of the Bishop of Winchester, “that every man should know his right and not usurp anothers.”
An authoritative register
This census was the final authoritative register of rightful possession, the Day of Judgment–thus the Domesday Book.
The entries are quite detailed, with vast differences in holdings apparent. Earl Hugh’s entries comprises two holdings, while Henry of Ferrers had one hundred and one parcels of land and property recorded.
There is even the following entry:
Land of Countess Godiva
In APPLEBY The Countess herself held 3 c. of land. Land for 3 ploughs. In lordship 2 ploughs. 8 villagers with 6 smallholders have 2 ploughs. The value is and was 20s.
(Nothing, however, about Lady Godiva’s horse or riding attire!)
In the recesses of my mind lurks a medieval story. This small book helps transport me back to that world, speaking to me about the importance of acreage and woodlands, of mills and churches, of oxen and yes, even ploughs!
Back to present time: Do click on this link to read a bit more about the compilation of this register!
Image of book: the authors; Writing the Domesday Book is in the public domain, available from Wikimedia.