Domesday Book

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Domesday Book

The Manor as Means of Exploitation.

Conformity "on paper ", as it were, they did achieve with remarkable speed.

Domesday Book, drawn up in 1086, divides the whole of England into" manors " - a word scarcely known twenty years before.

Many of these are very like the ideal type we have described, particularly in areas where the Midland field system prevailed.

A manor, in that area, more often than not corresponded to the old village settlement.

But even here, and more often else where, the word manor stands for many different things.

There were enormous manors containing many villages, not necessarily adjacent; or a village might be divided between several manors; or manors and villages might overlap.

Some Domesday manors were simply farmsteads.

Some had no freemen, others no villeins.

In fact, the only general statement which the great historian Maitland found it possible to make about the manor of Domesday Book was that it was "a house where geld is charged " or, as we should say, an estate separately assessed for the purpose of royal taxation.

This definition serves to remind us what Domesday Book was for, and incidentally why, although it is our most valuable source of information about the economic life of that time, it is so exceedingly difficult to interpret.

It was not a disinterested account of economic conditions, methods of tillage, and so forth; it was, first and foremost, a detailed valuation of William's new kingdom, made primarily to see what could be squeezed out of it for the revenue.

The people who drew it up were not particularly concerned with the way in which their new serfs tilled the soil; what interested them about the manor was not its function as a means of enforcing rules for common husbandry, but its possibilities as a means of exploitation.

Nevertheless, the legal structure of the manor had grown up with, and still implied, its own particular form of agricultural organization; and presumably it was easiest to impose where a roughly similar organization already existed.

Such an organization, and a framework of relationships between-landlord and tenant much like that of the Norman manor, did exist over the area of the Midland field system - most parts of the Midlands themselves, and some of the South of England.

In many villages the change would mean little more than a change of lord, and perhaps an all-round increase of burdens.

In others, the lord's demesne would be carved out of the strips in the field, perhaps with a general reallotment, the lord's new court would.

replace the old village meeting, the lord's bailiff would take over the supervision of collective agriculture.

The routine of daily life would go on, on the whole, with little interruption and without innovation.

The fact that the land was split into indivisible, roughly equal, peasant holdings - one man, one virgaie - provided a ready means of dividing among the tenants the burden of supporting the lord by means of labour services and food-rents.

The manor in the Midlands made use of the existing arrangements and absorbed them into itself.

Having done so, it probably attempted to stereotype them as much as possible.


Examples - The Chemical Industry.

The Manor in Theory

The manor was, according to Norman law and theory, a complete geographical and economic unit; it coincided with the village. All the inhabitants of the village were tenants of the manor, holding their land by some kind of rent, tribute or service paid to the lord. The lord lived on the produce of the manor, just as his tenants did; money being scarce and little used, communications bad, and labour difficult to hire, he could not, as his successor generally does to-day, live by purchasing what he wanted out of. his rent-roll. He held for himself a share of the land of the village, the demesne, and... see: The Manor in Theory


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