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Exploring Domesday Book: 3 Key Resources

Three free online resources to explore the people and places mentioned in Domesday Book.

Domesday Book, written after William the Conqueror's extensive survey of lands and people in England likely produced in 1086, is a foundational and crucial text in British history. However, it's a famously dense book best used for reference, and hardly one you'd sit down and read cover to cover. Its benefits to the historian make it equally inaccesible; an exhaustive, hundred by hundred, survey. Instead of slugging your way through or getting lost, here are three useful websites to explore the people and places in Domesday Book in more depth, and more accessible forms.

Open Domesday (https://opendomesday.org/)

This is a great starting point in that provides the actual text, in the form of photographed slides of the original folios. I've written about buying a physical copy of Domesday Book before here as part of my wider reading list, but these can often be expensive and hard to come by, so this digital copy is a great start for those beginning any research or with a newer interest.

To help with finding individuals, or looking for trends in the data, the website provides tabs to sort by People and Places, including a handy search box function. However, it's the mapping feature where Open Domesday really shines through. You can move around the country, find individual locations and explore the pre- and post-Conquest owners of areas, along with their recorded resources.

The PASE database - http://pase.ac.uk/index.html.

The scope of the PASE (Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England) database is much broader that Domesday alone - indeed it's aim is to record and contextualise every named individual within pre-Norman England. However, given the quantity of data inevitably drawn from Domesday, a special tab for this text is provided in the website. Here data is grouped by individual rather than location. Particularly useful are the discussions of the etymology of names and translation of bynames (although not complete in all cases), which are particularly useful to philologists. A good amount of contextual information on the named individuals is provided, along with a map of their land holdings - if you're looking to research an individual in more depth, this is definitely the best route.

Exon Database - (https://www.exondomesday.ac.uk)

Slightly different from the two above, this website is a resource for Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3500, known colloquially as the Exon Domesday. A byproduct of the broader survey of the country just like its Greater and Lesser Domesday counterparts, Exon only covers south-western England.

The real benefit of this resource comes from a side-by-side combination of Latin and English texts, ensuring easy translation even if you;re uncomfortable with the original language (and also a great way to pick up bits of Latin). High-quality photos of the manuscripts are also freely available, for anyone interested in paleography. Although providing fewer tools to explore the data than the two examples above, the Exon databate is a perfect resource for anyone interested in the text.

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