In 1066 William, Duke of Normandy invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon King, Harold II, at the Battle of Hastings, to become King of England. In 1085 England was again threatened with invasion, this time from Denmark. William needed to raise taxes to pay for the war and the mercenary army needed to ‘top up’ the men provided by his vassals.

To assess the wealth & assets of his subjects in his new kingdom, William ordered a census. The resulting Domesday Book is the most famous and earliest surviving public record in England. It is a highly detailed survey and valuation of land holdings and resources in late 11th Century England. The survey was a massive enterprise and there was nothing like it in England until the census in 1801. The book was called ‘Domesday’ as a metaphor for the day of judgement, because its decisions, like those of the last judgement, were unalterable.

Picture: Bayeux Tapestry