Decoding Domesday

Decoding Domesday

David Roffe

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New light is shed on the motives and objectives for the compiling of the still-mysterious Domesday Book, revolutionising our understanding of the period.
The Domesday Book is one of our major sources for a crucial period of English history; yet it remains difficult to interpret. This provocative new book proposes a complete re-assessment, with profound implications for our understanding of the society and economy of medieval England. In particular, it overturns the general assumption that the Domesday inquest was a comprehensive survey of lords and their lands, and so tells us about the economic underpinning of power in the late eleventh century; rather, it suggests that in 1086 matters of taxation and service were at issue and data were collected to illuminate these concerns. What emerges from this is that Domesday Book tells us less about a real economy and those who sustained it than a tributary one, with much of the wealth of England being omitted. The source, then, is not the transparent datum that social and economic historians would like it to be. In return, however, the book offers a richer understanding of late eleventh-century England in its own terms; and elucidates many long-standing conundrums of the Domesday Book itself.

DAVID ROFFE is an honorary research fellow at Sheffield University. He has written widely on Domesday Book and edited five volumes of the Alecto County Edition of the text.

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Keywords: Medieval History

Table of Contents

Domesday Past and Present
The Domesday Texts
The Inquest and the Book
The Domesday Boroughs
Lordship, Land and Service
The Vill and Taxation
The Economy and Society
The Communities of the Shire
The Beyond of Domesday
Domesday Now


Presents a large amount of information in a series of closely argued chapters. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

This book will [.] be essential reading for anyone interested in Domesday studies. Decoding Domesday is a monumental piece of scholarship. It is beautifully produced as Boydell and Brewer books are these days. SPECULUM

The most substantial contribution to the literature on Domesday statistics since the work of Darby and Finn, more thorough in its coverage and more radical than either in its interpretation of those statistics. Everyone with a serious interest in Domesday Book, or the society it documents, should read this book. Author and publisher are to be congratulated on a handsome production. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

A major contribution to Domesday literature and to our understanding of the early Anglo-Norman policy. Its arguments are presented with a rare elegance and fluency [and] are challenging and powerful. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

A book no serious student of Domesday Book should be without. Light is cast on innumerable topics and places. NORTHERN HISTORY

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