Monday, August 09, 2010

Domesday Book reveals the rise of a Norman Abramovich after 1066

Within 20 years of the Norman conquest, England was dominated by "a new class of super rich Frenchmen gorging on their success". So said an academic who has used the Domesday Book to trace the rise and rise of William the Conqueror's barons.

Stephen Baxter, a historian at King's College London, is one of the authors of a database, which goes live tomorrow, making it possible to trawl through figures from the Domesday Book and map the landholdings of those for whom 1066 became a licence to coin money. To take one example, Earl Hugh's estates, more than 300 scattered across 19 shires, generated an income of about £800 a year, over 1% of the nation's entire wealth. "Hugh was an Abramovich-scale billionaire," said Baxter, who presents a programme on Domesday tomorrow on BBC2 in the Normans series.

The new database is part of PASE, the snappily titled Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, a decade-long academic compilation of all the Anglo-Saxons for whom any records survive, which already includes almost 20,000 individuals, just under 1,000 of them women. The Domesday database can be used to show vividly what happened to many of those listed after the conquest: a map which Baxter worked on for three months demonstrates how Earl Harold's estates were carved up after he died at the Battle of Hastings, with a diagonal red stripe across England, from the Essex coast to the Severn, showing the estates which William the Conqueror kept for himself.

Click here to read this article from The Guardian