Domesday Book

Topics: England, Domesday Book, Norman conquest of England Pages: 5 (2145 words) Published: March 23, 2013
After the battle of Hastings 1066, William Duke of Normandy became King of England. In order for him to gain and maintain control he needed to exert strong force onto the English by imposing Norman power through ruthless and unjust methods. William spent his early years as king by learning the English way of governing. He saw that it worked well and decided to keep as much of the English tradition intact. William, discovering that his ‘nice’ approach did not convince all English that he was a worthy ruler led to the 1068 revolt. William realised that the only way to settle this was through the brutal process known as 'the harrying of the north'. This was effective in that it made William realise that the only way he could maintain complete authority over the English was to impose harsher rule. He then built castles everywhere as symbolic of the power he had and to instill fear into the people as a reminder of who ruled over them. Along with this, the introduction of the Norman-French version of feudalism was brought into English society allowing the country to be administered while he was absent. Lastly, the creation of the Domesday Book was a royal survey of the whole of England for administration and tax purposes. Soon after William became king of England in 1066 he introduced the position of sheriff. They were officials of the crown who were responsible for the administration of royal estates and shires; collecting tax on the king’s behalf; and were responsible for leading the king’s military in times of turmoil. Although William left most of the administration of the country as it originally was, he was insistent on retaining the tax system of geld. He kept the process of shires and hundreds on which it was based and ‘laid taxes on people very severely,’ but spent time learning about how England was governed. The Anglo-Saxon way of local governing was different to the Normans where ‘the absence of local, popular institutions was the most striking difference’. William saw that the English system of government worked well and decided to keep as much of it intact as possible. William recognised the authority that some Englishmen had over local areas and kept those that acknowledged him as their king as sheriffs. The Domesday Book reveals that during the 1970s a fair amount of sheriffs remained English and intermarriages between the English and Normans were encouraged for ‘legitimising succession of land’. This indicates that when William became king in 1066 he did not necessarily regard them as a security risk but he must have found that keeping their presence would have ‘eased the transition to Norman rule’. By not heavily institutionalising Norman power into Anglo-Saxon society and keeping up the old laws, the English would not feel different and eventually an Anglo-Norman society would develop. However, the effectiveness of this soft approach to impose Norman power would prove detrimental to William because he had not fully secured his power throughout England. William had only secured the loyalty of the South and because of this; rebellions in the north were able to develop resistance. In 1068 a rebellion broke out that was supported by Orderic Vitalis who managed to turn Edwin of Mercia and his brother Morcar of Northumbria against William. This was fuelled by William giving Aethelwig ‘judicial authority throughout the shires of Mercia’ except in areas where a large portion of Edwin's power was placed. Edwin sought an alliance with the king of Wales, Bleddyn of Gwynedd to which ‘leading men of England and Wales had met together... against the injustice and tyranny which the Normans and their allies had inflicted on the English’. In January 1069, the rebels converged on Durham and murdered William's newly-named earl Robert de Commines, a Norman who ignored the warning of Bishop Aethelwine that he was going to be attacked. King William's reaction to this was ruthless as he immediately marched the force of his army into...
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