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Duration: 1 hour

In this programme on the Domesday Book, Dr Stephen Baxter, medieval historian at King's College, London, reveals the human and political drama that lies within the parchment of England's earliest surviving public record. He also finds out the real reason it was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086.

The Domesday Book is the first great national survey of England, a record of who owned every piece of land and property in the kingdom. It also records the traumatic impact of the Norman conquest on Anglo-Saxon England, the greatest social and political upheaval in the country's history.

Most historians believe that Domesday is a tax book for raising revenue, but Baxter has his own theory. He proves that the Domesday Book could not have been used to collect taxes and he argues that it is about something far more important than money. Its real purpose was to confer revolutionary new powers on the monarchy in Norman England.

Last on

Sat 14 May 2011 20:00 BBC Two

  • Photo: Dr Stephen Baxter

    Photo: Dr Stephen Baxter

    Medieval historian Dr Stephen Baxter, seen here with the Exon Domesday, uncovers the dramas and mysteries that surround England's earliest surviving public record.

  • A Quote from Richard FitzNigel, treasurer to King Henry II

    ‘The natives call this book Domesdei that is, the day of judgment. This is a metaphor: for just as no judgment of that final severe and terrible trial can be evaded by any subterfuge, so when any controversy arises in the kingdom concerning the matters contained in the book, and recourse is made to the book, its word cannot be denied or set aside with impunity.’
    Richard FitzNigel, treasurer to King Henry II.

  • Things you might not know about the Domesday Book

    60,000 people all over England were questioned during the Domesday Inquisition.

    At least 200 calf and sheep skins were used to make the 800 pages of Domesday Book.

    13,000 places are named in Domesday Book; this is the first formal record of many English villages.

    Domesday Book contains about a million words. It was transcribed by the hand of one scribe.

  • BBC Hands on History

    BBC Hands on History

    Find out how you can go on your own Norman adventure with Hands on History - helping to bring history to life.

    Start your Norman adventure
  • Norman Season

    Norman Season

    This programme was part of Norman Season on BBC Two and BBC Four, a collection of programmes highlighting the effect that the Normans have had on our civilisation.

  • BBC A History of the World blog

    BBC A History of the World blog

    Head over to the A History of the World blog to read a post by Dr Stephen Baxter, presenter of Domesday.

    Read Dr Stephen Baxter's post on History of the World blog


Stephen Baxter
Andrea Illescas
Andrea Illescas
Robin Dashwood
Andrea Illescas


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