Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Domesday Book Online

A taste of Life in the 11th Century:

Landholding and Feudalism

The system of landholding as portrayed throughout the Domesday Book was based on a rigid social hierarchy called the feudal system, imposed in England by William the Conqueror following his successful 1066 conquest. Rather than being owned, as is the case nowadays, land was held from a member of society higher up the social tree. At the top sat King William who granted land to tenants-in-chief - usually lords or members of the Church, in return for their assistance in the Norman Conquest. Next down the ladder came under-tenants who held land from the tenants-in-chief, and so it continued with the bottom of the ladder being occupied by peasants - villagers, bordars and cottars - who earned their opportunity to hold a small amount of land by working on the land of the lordship, and slaves, who held no land.

The basic unit of land in the Domesday Book is the manor; manors could be larger or smaller than just one village, but all consisted of land and had jurisdiction over the tenants. These were part of larger administrative subdivisions of land called hundreds (wapentakes in Danish areas of the country), which contained several manors and had their own assembly of notables and representatives from local villages.

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