Domesday Book details made available in map form

Image caption, The survey was "most comprehensive of any pre-industrial society in the world".

Tracing the history of English villages or pieces of land is to become easier with a new online database that helps map out records from the Domesday Book.

The website shows who owned what when the survey - recording what happened after the Norman Conquest - was conducted in 1085-6.

The PASE Domesday site has been created by teams at the University of Cambridge and King's College, London.

The Domesday survey was done on the orders of William the Conqueror.

It describes in great detail the landholdings and resources of late 11th-century England.

Visitors to the new Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) Domesday website can find out who owned their town or village, create maps and tables of the estates held by the same lords elsewhere in England, and examine the scale of the dispossession of the English by the Normans following the conquest of 1066.

Dr Stephen Baxter, who presents the BBC Domesday programme - part of a series on the Normans - said it was the first time people would be able to generate maps showing the land owned by individuals.

The estates of some of the great landlords of 1066 could be searched for, and then users could "see how they were redistributed to the billionaire barons of the conquest period", he said.

The Domesday Book, as it later became known, was the "most comprehensive survey of any pre-industrial society in the world" and an "extraordinary resource", he added.

The exercise was unparalleled in contemporary Europe, and was not matched in its coverage of the country until the population censuses of the 19th century.

The website's launch is part of a wider project to collate information relating to all the recorded inhabitants of England, from the late sixth to the late 11th century, in a single online database to be launched later this year.

It is designed to help build up a profile of the Anglo-Saxon elite that was overrun after William the Conqueror's victory.

Researchers processed the vast quantity of data found in the various products of the Domesday survey of 1086 in order to create the website.

"Constructing this database has been quite an exercise, but it is a phenomenally useful research tool," said Dr Baxter, of King's College, London.

"Essentially, it's now possible for anyone to do in a few seconds what it has taken scholars weeks to achieve in the past."

"The breakthrough has been made possible by the wonders of modern technology, in selecting and arranging the data, in generating the maps, and in presenting the possibilities," added Professor Simon Keynes, of the University of Cambridge's Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.

"One can then begin to detect the patterns and to make the informed judgements which will help to produce a significant result."

  • Domesday, with Dr Stephen Baxter, will be on BBC Two at 2000 BST on Tuesday 10 August 2010 (except Northern Ireland and Wales - analogue).

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