Man catching bees in a bag.  Book of Hours 14th century. By permission of The British Library. Stowe 17.
Catching a swarm of bees

Introduction

When William I captured England in 1066 he became King of what was probably the wealthiest and most well-governed kingdom in western Europe. On inheriting the kingdom, William confiscated most of the land from the Anglo-Saxonglossary icon nobility and divided it up between Normanglossary iconbarons and the church. At Christmas 1085, intent on knowing more about the land he had reigned over for nearly twenty years, William commissioned the survey that became known as Domesday Book. The survey was much more than a means to satisfy William’s fascination with his new kingdom. It recorded the value of land he held personally and that held by his tenants-in-chiefglossary icon. Where there were disputes over land it helped settle disagreements. At a time when England was again under threat of invasion, this time from Denmark, finances and men to support his campaigns were crucial. Domesday provided an estimate of the taxation William could expect to receive and the military service he could demand from his lords.

World of Domesday looks at what life was like in 11th century England. The wealth of information that Domesday provides helps create a picture of the rich landscape that William inherited. The survey reveals what areas of the countryside were worked as ploughland, pasture, meadow or woodland, and suggests regional variations. It tells us something about the people who held or worked the land and the social relationships between them. As an Anglo-Saxon chronicler wrote, not 'one ox nor one cow nor one pig which was there left out and not put down in his record'. In spanning 20 years, Domesday also tells of how the landscape changed as a result of activities aimed at protecting Norman England.

Norman knights supported by archers attack the English at the Battle of Hastings.  By special permission of the City of Bayeux.  Detail of the Bayeux Tapestry, 11th century
Norman knights supported by archers attack the English at the Battle of Hastings. Detail of the Bayeux Tapestry – 11th century; by special permission of the City of Bayeux