The Domesday book gives every person with a keen interest in history and society to get a chance to see and feel what life in the medieval times was like. Compiled somewhere between 1085 and 1086 AD on the command of King William I of England, the domesday book is the result of a painstaking economic and social survey that was undertaken at that time. Historians differ in opinion on what the primary objectives of the economic and social survey which brought about the Domesday Book was. As it were, England in those days was organized into fiefdoms, most of which were quite automously run by the local landowners and barons.
There are those who then feel that the main objective of the economic survey that brought about domesday book was political, namely that the king wanted to find out how many tenants each landlord had. It is these tenants who could be conscripted into the military, as wars arose. And in order to protect their economic interests, many barons and landlords (who were both the political and economical leaders of their fiefdoms) would be tempted to under-declare the number of their tenants, to reduce their contribution to the military as overly generousl military contributions would translate into working manpower shortages, and consequently lower economic productivity in their fiefdoms. Through the survey that produced the domesday book then, and which was directly carried out by the king's officers, the king would stamp out such under-declarations. Another group of historians feels that the primary objective of the survey that brought about domesday book was economic, namely, to rein in tax evassion (by shedding light on what each taxapayers exact holdings were) and also to ascertain the exact extend of state property, or the crown property as it was known. Now kings were very powerful in those times, and such state or crown property was regarded as the personal property of the king. And England was not a very politically stable place then, and in fact just before the survey which brought about the domesday book, there had been some political upheavals with the landlords trying to conquer one another and overrun one another's economic interests. It was therefore in order for the king to commision the survey that brought about domesday book, at least to ensure that his very own property which was spread out all through England had not been affected by those conquests. Whatever the primary objectives of the survey that brought about domesday book, it is a book which gives one the opportunity to feel what day to day life was like in the medieval times.
Through the domesday book, for example, you get to see what the values and economic aspirations of the people living then were. Going through the domesday book will tend to leave you feeling grateful for having been born today rather than then. For example, one fact that comes out clearly is that unlike today, when common people are accorded some recognition and respect, the common people in the medieval times were not really counted as people who mattered at all. Notice that the undertenants are listed only by christian names (like pets one would say), and are being counted as if they are in essence the personal property of their respective landlords. Through the domesday book, you also get a chance to see just how modest the fortunes of our forefathers were, and generally how tough medieval life was. And thanks to the Domesday Book online version, you can get the opportunity to experience medieval life from the comfort of your desk. This domesday book online version was made available in 2006, and has made the domesday book accessible by many more people than was previously ever possible when the book was only available in the natioanl archives.
High quality page extract
Modern English translation
5 page glossary
Framed or digital versions