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Domesday Book is our oldest and most famous public record.
It surveys England south of the river Tees, recording data for both 1066 and 1086, thus documenting the Norman Conquest, one of the greatest upheavals in English history. It contains a body of evidence unparalleled for England, or indeed for any other country at so early a period. For more than 99% of the 15,000 places named there, Domesday provides the first recorded description of their human and natural resources. The history of most English villages begins with Domesday Book, as does the continuous history of the English countryside, of the landowning classes, of landed estates, of population, and of the economy. On taxation, military service, administrative structures, government, legal customs and practice, warfare, place and personal names, and many more miscellaneous topics, Domesday Book is the primary source for several centuries of English history. The bulk of the evidence for the settlement of the English in the fifth century and of the Vikings in the ninth comes from Domesday Book. It is overwhelmingly the most important source for the impact of the Norman Conquest, perhaps the most important divide in English history.
Without Domesday Book our ignorance of vast swathes of early English history would be profound, and many other disciplines - geography, philology, economics, linguistics - would be equally impoverished. Its popular name, Doomsday, or Day of Judgement, reflects the thoroughness, and the finality of its record, in the popular mind. There could be no appeal; it was the Last Judgement.
The modern study of Domesday Book begins with J.H. Round, Feudal England (1895), and the most illuminating study remains F.W. Maitland, Domesday Book and beyond (1897). For an assessment of the value of Domesday Book as a source, see James Campbell, The Anglo-Saxon state (2000); and for the history of the record, Elizabeth M. Hallam, Domesday Book through nine centuries (1986).
See also Great Domesday, Domesday Inquest, structure of Domesday Book.