The Domesday Book

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The Domesday Book a Medieval Census

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One of the most researched books in the world, the Domesday Book is the earliest public record in England that has survived. In 1085 William the Conqueror ordered a complete survey of the land in England. The Domesday Book is the result. It was probably for the purpose of recording taxes and determining military service in a feudal system.

They recorded who owned the land, who lived on it, the type of livestock, the value and taxes. It became known as Domesday because to the subject Anglo-Saxons it resembled God's final day of judgment. An Anglo Saxon described it this way:

"He sent his men all over England into every shire ... Also he had a record made of ... how much everybody had who was occupying land in England, in land or cattle, and how much money it was worth. So very narrowly did he have it investigated, that there was no single hide nor a yard of land, nor indeed (it is a shame to relate but it seemed no shame to him to do) one ox nor one cow nor one pig which was there left out, and not put down in his record: and all these records were brought to him afterwards."

It was the most complete and detailed survey until the modern census came along in the 19th century.

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