"Not even one
ox, nor one cow, nor one pig was left out." But what William the
Conqueror didn't have in the Domesday Book was an easy way of
searching its reams of data. It has taken more than 900 years,
but at last the internet has provided a solution.
An academic at
Hull University has produced the world's first complete, freely
available online version.
Professor John Palmer, whose work on the
Domesday Book stretches back 25 years, has transformed its
handwritten parchment pages into a database with searchable
indexes, a detailed commentary and the ability to organise all
its statistics in a tabulated format.
The Domesday Book, the oldest
and most famous public record, was based on the 1086 great survey
would be nothing like it in England again
until the censuses of the 19th century.
nearly 1000 years it has been inaccessible to most people and
difficult to understand. There are costly CD-Rom
translations, and the UK's National Archives
provides online searches, but Palmer has coded and tagged terms
so they can be automatically retrieved and
His software makes it possible to isolate certain
variables and conduct several searches at once. The results can
be displayed as a map, table or translated text, or as a
combination of formats.
The three-year project was funded by a
£250,000 ($617, 000) grant from the Arts and Humanities Research
Palmer, who worked on the project with his son, Matt,
said: "My interest in Domesday began in about 1980 as a teaching
project ... It developed into a research interest for the 900th
anniversary in 1986, but computers weren't powerful enough
Written in Latin, the Domesday Book lists places, landowners
and tenants, tax assessments, cultivated land, numbers of oxen
and plough teams, property values, legal claims, illegal activity
and social classes such as freemen, villeins, smallholders,
cottagers, slaves, priests and burgesses.
said: "No English medieval historian can ignore the book because
it's such an important source for social and economic medieval
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