Land for, ploughland or teamland

Latin, terra ... carucis.

This formulae, often translated as ploughland or teamland, has given rise to more discussion than any other statistic in Domesday Book. It is not only historians who have found it problematic. It caused problems for the officials and juries of the Domesday Inquest itself. In several counties, the required figures were not supplied at all; in others, they are missing for many manors; and in several more, the information was supplied in a number of different forms, not all of which may mean precisely the same thing.

Yet on the face of it, the meaning of 'Land for' is self-evident. Land for so many ploughs is surely the amount of arable land which could be worked by the ploughs on a manor during the agricultural year. In many counties, notably in those of circuit 3, the data fits this meaning perfectly. On manor after manor, the land available for ploughing exactly matches the stated number of ploughs. Where this was not the case, moreover, it was usually recorded that 'there could be' so many more ploughs, this number being the difference between the actual ploughs and the land available for ploughing. Thus, if a manor had 'Land for' 6 ploughs but only 4 actual ploughs, the scribe would then record that 'there could be 2 more ploughs there'.

In some areas, however, this common sense interpretation of the formulae does not seem to work. Predominantly pastoral counties are a problem; but a more worrying difficulty is the evident artificiality of the figures in several counties, carucates, ploughs or plough teams bearing fixed ratios to each other. Such problems have suggested to some historians that the ploughland figures were yet another form of fiscal assessment, perhaps a new tax assessment intended to replace hides and carucates.

The arguments for this interpretation are clearly laid out in two articles by Sally P.J. Harvey, 'Taxation and the ploughland in Domesday Book', Domesday Book: a reassessment, edited by Peter H. Sawyer (1985), pages 86-103, and 'Taxation and the economy', in Domesday studies, edited by J.C. Holt (1987), pages 249-64, recently updated and slightly modified in her Domesday: Book of Judgement (2014), pages 223-26, where it is argued that the ploughland was a new fiscal assessment designed to reduce the amount of the exempt demesne of the tenants-in-chief, a view not miles apart from that of David Roffe, that the ploughland was 'a non-fiscal measure of fiscal land' or 'a measure of the capacity of the hidated land to pay the geld assessed upon it: Domesday: the Inquest and the Book (2000), pages 155, 165, and Decoding Domesday (2007), pages 206-207