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Domesday Book: A Complete Translation (Penguin Classics)
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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2005
This is the first time that the entire contents of both Little Domesday and Great Domesday have been available in one affordable volume, and what a wonderful thing Penguin have done! This is a translation by a group of the greatest Domesday scholars, and provides a powerful insight into the society of medieval Britain, through a document unique in the world in it's scope and detail. It is possible to look beyond the numbers, and gain real insight into how an individual, or a community was doing. By examining the economy, landscapes and early settlements, it paints a picture of what sort of people lived on this island 900 years ago. This is not a book that anyone will read from cover to cover, but rather you can open any page and enjoy history in bite-size pieces.
Still a vivid and authoritative guide, so long after it's creation, it is a book that I will be dipping into for many years, and I am sure that it will be a source of great pleasure to all historians, amateur and otherwise. Penguin Classics are to be congratulated for a truly worthy (and fascinating) publication.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
There are few historical documents now over 900 years old that are frequently quoted in courts of law to clarifie points of law.

The Domesday volumes, Great Domesday and Little Domesday as they are known are kept within a large 14Century chest at the Public Records Office at Kew in London.

On prior arrangement and a fee you are allowed to examine under strict supervision the contents of either volume but unless you are a scholar in early Latin their velum pages will mean little.

In the early 1980s a most impressive hardback series totalling every county surveyed by Williams officials known as The Philimore Collection became available but at a considerable cost.

I know because i bought the Hereford volume with its gorgeous red cover to help in my research of churches mentioned in the Hereford area during the Elevnth Century.

The beautifully presented hardback volume of Hereford was a direct copy of the original 11Century text and set me back nearly £30 in 1984.

That was a lot of money for me then, and remember that was only a single volume, if you wanted the entire Domesday Book, Great Domesday and Little Domesday, there were a further 34 volumes to purchase, which makes this Penguin translation that more significant for the casual reader.

My Hereford volume was at the time very hard to read, mainly because it was a direct copy of the original text, and like most potential customers, my grasp of early clerical Latin was nil.

The Philimore collection was magnificent but had one major flaw in that it was aimed at the accademic scholar whose grasp of early Latin enhanced their understanding of the text and also it would have cost an absolute fortune to purchase every individual volume had one required them for academic research.

Roll forward twenty or so years and we are presented with what must be the Holy Grail for those stydying 11thCentury history.

Penguin have compiled the entire Domesday both Great and Small into one most impressive 1436 paged soft back or hardback volume.

The time it must have taken those involved to translate the early text into 21st Century language must have been collosal.

What we have here is plain English that we can all understand and enjoy but still this is hardly Harry Potter.

Your interest must lie in discovering what 11thCentury life in Williams kingdom was really like and there is no other book in the English language that will provide the reader with such an indepth analysis of daily life nine centuries ago.

I find its contents trully fasinating,with the information on how many people and properties were at Oxford and Gloucester in 1086 as well as how many oxen and slaves ploughed the land in each and every village there about is history at your fingertips.

For the historian or person interested in English history this book is an almost unique narrative.

Maybe Bedes History of England and The Anglo Saxon Chronicles are of equal merit for their period in English history but neither book is as relevant to today's civil and criminal proceedings as are the Domesday Volumes.

Remember the entire population of Williams kingdom is estimated to be just around 800,000 subjects and the stewards sent out by the King gathered so much information about each and every village and town that we can look on in wonder and almost visualise what life so long ago must have been like.

The most compelling thing is that the many place names especially in the Hereford and Gloucestershire areas are still here over 900 years later and with some, the population has little changed apart from lack of oxen and your occasional slave or Housecarl tending the land.

We have our regular census every now and then but really there is no historical document in any country throughout the world to rival THE DOMESDAY survey.It was of its time but the insight into a way of life and being is relevant today.

Until you familiarise yourself with its contents you cannot imagine the pleasure it will give those trully interested in early English history and its text now is so easy to read and comprehend.

If you set sail from the port of Chester without the permission of the crown everybody found onboard the vessel was fined 100 shillings.

Likewise if you refused to gather arms upon request to venture into Wales to give the Taffies a bloodynose you were fined 40 shillings.

These are only two of the most interesting aspects of everyday life in the city of Chester under Williams rule.

This was a considerable sum of money in the 11C more than a years wages for the majority of peasants or those who worked the land.

Talking of Wales, Williams officials didnot include it in the servey mainly because of the tenureship of the Lords Marcher,who at the time were some of the most powerfull men in the kingdom next to the King himself,their estates in South and Mid Wales were known quantities,and William roughly knew the revenue due to him.

The county of Herefordshire is as close as Domesday came to Wales, with certain villages especially Kilpeck now famous for its magnificent 12c Norman church, were directly on the English Welsh border.

Kilpeck was then known as Chipitee,but Streton Sugwas, Shobdon, Eardisley and Castle Frome all made famous by the magnificent Kilpeck school of Norman architecture are right there in the Herefordshire county of Domesday,and even their original 11C names except Kilpeck have remained unchanged.

Remarkably these two counties of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire show very little change in overall place name index in Domesday.

Atleast 80% of the place names mentioned in Domesday for these two counties still remain,and the parish boundaries have not changed much either.

This is probably not a book you will read from cover to cover, but its certainly one you can pick up again and again to learn what life was really like over 900 years ago.

What other document of similar antiquity can provide a modern reader with so much relevant information.

Domesday predates Magna Carta by well over 150 years, both are just as relevant to our legal system to this very day,and thats why both are often quoted in our Courts of Law.

It has taken years to materialise,and is now available for all to read,its contents will enthrall or disinterest you, but you cannot denie its impressiveness,there are few books on my bookshelf as thick or as interesting to read as this one.

Its price is so impressive that it would make the ideal gift to anyone interested in history, but here is a book that now is easy to read and follow,and thankfully has a glossary at the back to explain what a Housecarl is.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2009
For anyone who collects books and is interested in history this (for the price)should be in your library. Most books about the Domesday benefit by having this copy of the complete greater and lesser Domesday to delve into.
Facinating in its own right just to leaf throught the pages and glance at a unique snapshot of history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2009
What can one really say about the Domesday Book apart from the fact that it's THE DOMESDAY BOOK. To those of us who love history (especially medieval history) the book is a MUST and for those tracing family history the book is a benchmark for all further research. This edition is well presented with a clear translation and a good index though there are one or two discrepancies (but for such a large undertaking I think that these can probably be forgiven). The attached glossary is comprehensive and clear. It is when you begin to read the various introductions to the different counties and realize how tangled their land-ownership was and the bitchiness that the various plaintiffs were that you begin to wonder if the original compilers laughed at the foibles of their brethren.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Let’s face it the Domesday Book as it was called by the Saxons is a marvellous piece of history for us today. The Normans, who wrote this at the end of William I's life, saw it as a survey, and that's what it is, albeit one that was likely to have been drawn up to see whether more taxes could be garnered. There were originally two books, Little Domesday (Anglia) and Great Domesday, which was the rest of the country.

As a book to sit down and read through this isn't, but if you are interested in your area or elsewhere, this gives a great insight into what it was like in the 11th Century. Unique in its implementation this can be seen as the beginning of property rights in the Western World, and is therefore a cornerstone in some ways of English Law. Because of such distinctions then made we have a basis for all such queries in court these days. If you own a house you know where your garden boundaries are, what things fall under your jurisdiction, etc. This book originally was used for such. You can see how the country was originally rural, with more people working the land than in cities, and how that has changed in these days to the reverse. Probably nothing has been drawn up that has given us a greater insight into the history of a nation, and when you fill in your census every ten years, you are carrying on this great tradition.

Penguin has here supplied us with a translation that anyone can use rather than something strictly for academics in their ivory towers, and they should be commended for such an undertaking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2013
Have looked about for a version of this book and here it is at a good price.
Good to have it all together and in English of course. I wanted to have a copy handy when I visited places so I could look them up for historical purposes. Where I live there is a (very) short entry in the middle of a load of stuff about places now considered removed form the area. That is of course the interest of this book.
I feel sure that William the Conqueror would be pleased to know that a book he instigated is still in circulation almost over 900 years later. I am not a WtC fan I should add and am very happy to have not been around when he arrived.
The book was competitively priced, arrived much earlier than predicted and was adequately wrapped.
If you're into history of the UK and travel around looking a places, you might order two copies; one for home and the other for the boot of your car (if you have a vehicle where it will help with weight for increased traction in icy conditions), your rucksack or other carrying device.
Excellent publication, nicely presented; although being paperback it's likely to fall apart with frequent thumbing, and like yellow pages something to leaf through when you have a moment. Probably this has it over yellow pages unless you need to find a tile layer or a chimney sweep when it will have it over this book.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2009
While this is a very useful book for the interested reader it cannot be used by academics. One reason for this is that the marginalia is omitted from this edition. This is important where additional notes have been made to an estate detail and linked to its correct place by lines. If this purchase is intended for serious research you are advised to use the Phillimore editions - individual county volumes can be picked up quite cheaply second-hand - or use the VCH volumes in the major libraries.
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on 2 October 2013
As an historical document it is unsurpassed (probably anywhere in the world) and purchsed at a very reasonable cost. An inital skim through some of the 1400-odd pages, puts a great deal of "flesh" on the bare bones of English history which I learned at school. The human side of how our forebears lived and worked, their responsibilities and obligations are more easily imagined from the many hundreds of entries showing who possessed what in terms of land and it clearly demonstrates that, aside from specialist trades, e.g. Blacksmiths, farriers, tailors, etc., he country's economy was principally agrarian/agricultural-based. The volume arrived in perfect condition, before the delivery date of which I was advised and I am delighted with my purchase.
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on 10 July 2014
I can't say I've read it. I just got it after it had been discussed on a TV programme I'd been watching. However the short space of time it took to gather all the information for those days is staggering. Just to dip into wherever the page opens is so informative. To see how old some of the place names that we still have today is amazing that they are still here after all this time. Congratulations to the translators, what hard work-but interesting -it must have been. Glad I bought it.
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on 3 February 2014
this book was severely damaged when it arrived with tape on the cover and as it was a present i made a complaint to the seller, i was immediately given a full refund and was allowed to keep the book, so whereas i couldnt give it as a wrapped present and wasnt happy about that, i was very happy with the seller and if they had a rating it would be 10 out of 10
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