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The Domesday Book: William the Conqueror's Great Survey

Evening Program

Monday, November 4, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0457

Facsimile of the Domesday Book

In 1085, 19 years after the Battle of Hastings made him king of England, William the Conqueror ordered an inquest be made in every shire into the landowners, peasants, slaves, moveable property and fiscal resources of the realm. As a contemporary Englishman observed bitterly, “there was not one single hide, not one yard of land, not even (it is shameful to tell) one ox, not one cow, not one pig left out.”

These records were collected, edited, and compiled into two volumes that became known colloquially as the Domesday Book, because its authority on matters of land tenure was as incontestable as that of the Last Judgment.

Although the Domesday Book hasn’t been used as evidence in disputes over property rights since the 1960s, historians and genealogists continue to look to it for information about the early history of English towns and villages and family lines.

Medieval historian Richard Abels, professor emeritus of the United States Naval Academy, explores how and why this extraordinary document came to be and what it reveals about the governance, society, and economy of late 11th-century England, as well as the impact of the Norman Conquest.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)