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As the scribes went round England, they were protected by William's armed men. Each group was led by a Royal Commissioner, who took a list of standard questions. A 'jury' of local nobility and citizens answered the questions. All answers were written down in Latin.
Information was collected from the start of 1086, and working up into the complete volume started later that year. William died in 1087 before the writing-up work was completed.
William the Conqueror wished to know the details of the land he had conquered, England. He let his knights and barons have big areas of land, and wanted rent money from them. The Domesday Book was a record of every farm, village and house so that he knew how much rent he should get. Only some small villages in the countryside are not in the book. Major cities like London and Winchester are also not in the Domesday Book, perhaps because of their size, or because (not owning land), the people could not be taxed.
The Domesday book gave the names of King William's friends and even listed the number of pigs on a piece of land. But it was not like a modern census. It did not give the names of all the people. It listed the heads of each household, but left out Londoners, monks, nuns, and anyone living in castles. In effect, it listed only people he could get rent from, and who might supply men to fight in his army.
The Domesday Book is two volumes. One of the books was called Great Domesday, and the other was called Little Domesday. The draft of the second volume, Little Domesday, was never worked up, but no doubt was used for tax collection just the same.
The Domesday book got its name because its lists were so complete that it reminded people of the Last Judgment (which people also call Doomsday, or Domesday) in Christianity, when lists of what people have done go before God for people to be judged.
- "William had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
- "The Domesday Book Online - Frequently Asked Questions". domesdaybook.co.uk. http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk/faqs.html#12. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
- Domesday Book
- "The Domesday (Doomsday) Book". historic-uk.com. http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/England-History/DomesdayBook.htm. Retrieved December 19, 2010.