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The Domesday Book

The Domesday Book
Little Domesday as one volume, open to Norfolk ©TopFoto.co.uk/Public Record Office

After his successful invasion of England in 1066, William the Conqueror wanted to learn more about the country he now ruled. And more importantly, he wanted to know how much tax he could raise from it.

In 1085, he commissioned a survey of England to provide records of landholders, their tenants, the amount of land they owned, and how many people occupied the land. Incredibly, the information was gathered in only a year by fewer than 28 people, and was recorded by hand in two huge books (Great Domesday and Little Domesday).

This massive project contained details of no fewer than 13,418 settlements. Almost all the places described still exist, even if some of them have changed their names.

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry