during the reign of King
Edward the Confessor (who directly preceded William's rival Harold Godwinson). The information from this survey includes the number of
cows, horses, and other livestock owned by each lord, the number of households of each type in each village, and other detailed information which gives historians
a valuable glimpse into otherwise obscure facts from the period.
By the 12th century the book had come to be called the "Domesday" (medieval spelling of "Doomsday" or "Final Judgement") book since, according to the 12th century
official Richard FitzNeal, the information it contained was considered to be the final verdict on landholdings without legal appeal, like the Last Judgement of
God mentioned in the Bible.
One Anglo-Saxon chronicler gave the view that the book was so complete that it didn't leave out a single "ox nor one cow nor one pig", although the book in fact
only records livestock belonging to landlords.
Peasants were grouped into the following categories:
Freemen and sokemen were free peasants who owned their own land and were not attached to a specific manor. They generally owned (on average) 30 acres of land
and two plough oxen, and represented about twelve to fourteen percent of the population, although in some regions they were up to half the rural population.
The Latin terms used in the Domesday Book were "francus homo" and "socmannus", which
seem to have referred to people with essentially the same status.
The number of families in these categories fell drastically between 1066 and 1086, apparently because their lands were often taken over by the new Norman
Villans (or villeins), bordars and cottars (or cottagers) were serfs who were attached to a specific manor at their lord's discretion and made up about 40 percent of the population.
Villans often owned between 30 and 40 acres, but were required to also work in the lords fields during two or three days each week.
Bordars and cottars often owned only a few acres of land and were required to work longer hours in the lord's fields.
Slaves were owned by their lord and could be sold to another owner. They comprised about ten percent of the population in 1086. Slavery gradually died out in England
by the following century.
The main unit in the Domesday Book is the "vill", an adminstrative unit which might be a village or area of separate farms. Each vill might have sections
belonging to one or more manors, and some manors overlapped multiple vills.
Information about each vill, organized by manor holdings, can be accessed via the following index which is organized by county:
The Index of Counties
Information in the database is based on the enormous work produced and made available by Professor John Palmer and his group at the University of Hull,
and also the work of George Slater and opendomesday.org. Medieval scholarship owes them a huge debt of gratitude.