As a Texan, you’d be forgiven for not having heard of England’s Domesday Book, but if you have any interest in the history of the modern world, it’s worth knowing about.
The people of Great Britain didn’t invent land surveying. Far from it—that honor goes to the ancient Egyptians in 1400 BC. The skill was further carried on and honed by the Romans. By the time land surveying fell to Great Britain, the British proved to be not very adept. In point of fact, the physical measurements in England’s Domesday (pronounced “Doomsday”) Book aren’t as accurate as those found in Egypt or Rome. That said, the existence of the book itself is a feat of civil government and information gathering.
Wild, wild Britain
In 1086, what’s now known as the United Kingdom was anything but united. The country was a war-torn mess of conflicting clans and invading armies. Numerous influential people had disputed claims on territory throughout the country. In part to quell the squabbling throughout the country, the nation’s king, William the Conqueror, commissioned England’s Domesday Book. (In Texas, this could be seen as similar to the order instilled in Texans following the Texas Revolution.)
England’s Domesday Book was designed to map out the territories of the entire United Kingdom. In doing so, William the Conqueror’s land surveyors assigned ownership to each parcel of land, effectively ending centuries of bloodshed. After all, if anyone bothered to complain about William’s mandates, they would have his army to deal with.
The secondary purpose
Of course, putting an end to regional violence wasn’t the only reason the new king of England set about creating England’s Domesday Book. As they traveled from territory to territory, William’s assessors recorded a tremendous amount of information. In addition to assigning absolute ownership of territory, William’s surveyors marked the location of buildings, the value of land, how that land was used, the individual possessions of the “magnates,” the payments due to the crown and due other counties and much more.
When the whole process was complete, a different assessor came to the territory and recorded the same extensive volumes of information, just to make sure the first guy got the job done correctly. Then, William used the information to determine how much tax to levy on individual territories.
Establishing the crown’s land
England’s Domesday Book took two arduous years to assemble. Ultimately, William the Conqueror collected information on more than 14,000 English towns and settlements. Though it may not have been as technically accurate as the earlier land surveys conducted by the Egyptians and Romans, the Domesday book became the definitive word on English territory and ownership.
In fact, that’s how the book got its name. It was named after the Day of Judgment because what went in the Domesday Book was the end of the argument when it came to land disputes.
Your trusted surveyors
You might not get to see England’s Domesday Book in Texas, but you can at least find out everything there is to know about your property. Contact D.G. Smyth & Co., Inc. today to learn how we can help you.