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What does Domesday Book reveal
about the Impact of 20 years of Norman rule?

This activity is one of a pair of resources to help students learn about Domesday Book at either KS3 or GCSE.  Its companion activity ‘Efficient and ingenious.’ Why is that an accurate description of the Domesday Survey and Norman government? can be found HERE … Both activities were created by Ruth Lingard and Helen Snelson who teach in York, together with Professor Stephen Baxter of St. Peter’s College, Oxford whose research on Domesday Book underpins the material and activities.

Both activities have been used by Ruth and Helen and also been trialled by other teachers. In terms of the amount of class time needed, Ruth explains: It's best to start with the ‘Efficient and ingenious’ activity on the compilation of the survey as this helps the students grasp the time frame of the Survey. You can do both activities in a lesson, for example if you are teaching this as part of a GCSE Norman Conquest unit and have just one lesson to cover the Domesday Survey. However, ideally I'd devote a whole lesson to the second activity on what Domesday reveals about the impact of the Conquest. This gives proper time for reflection.

What follows is Helen and Ruth’s description of the activity on what Domesday reveals about the impact of 20 years of Norman rule.

Support

A WORD version of this introduction, the activity and accompanying resources can be downloaded:

Why, When and What

Why use this activity?

We find that students don’t easily connect Domesday Book with the Conquest itself beyond a superficial level. We also find that some textbooks cover the Domesday survey in very little depth. Extracts from Domesday Book itself are also hard to access for students. Using them seems like a good idea to enliven the topic, but they do need some adaption to be useful. This activity uses adapted extracts from Domesday to give students a sense of what it includes and the opportunity to us Domesday Book as evidence for the impact of the Conquest.

When to use this activity?

This activity could be done before or after studying the Conquest at either KS3 or GCSE.

If used before, then it will generate questions to be answered when studying the Conquest itself.  It presents students with material from Domesday Book and they can make inferences about the impact of the Conquest. For example, it reveals how the number of landowners has declined, how Normans have taken power, how the Church still had power, and it reveals the loss of land value in the North that historians use as evidence for the Harrying. 

If used afterwards, then students should be able to take their findings from the activity and set them in their historical context.  They should be able to apply their prior learning to suggest reasons for their findings, thus using the Domesday Book source as evidence. 

What do students do?

The activity involves students researching 15 places and 3 people in England that are mentioned in Domesday Book.  Students then collate their findings to arrive at an answer to the question: ‘What can Domesday Book reveal about the impact of the Norman Conquest’. The work with both extracts and collation takes about 20 minutes and can be slotted into a lesson on Domesday.

Places and people have been selected to enable students to infer the impact of the Conquest, on England as a whole and in specific regions.  Here is a list of what the students are likely to discover:

• The value of land in most of the north went down, in some cases dramatically.  This reveals the impact of the Harrying of the North almost 20 years after it took place.

• English landowners were replaced, or at least had Norman overlords by 1086

• The total number of landowners was drastically reduced. In 1066 there were 41k landowners.  In 1086 there were just 1200+ and only 150 of great note.

• The church still held land that it had in 1066. 

• Suggestions as to the biggest change England had seen 1066-1086.

• Ideas about who had been impacted most by the Conquest. (landowners)

You should also be able to draw out in discussion:

• The nature of the information that the surveyors were acquiring.

• Suggestions as to how this would have been experienced.

• A realisation that there is a lot of organisation and administrative skill in evidence.

• What it reveals about the economic and political power that William is seeking.

What resources are provided?

• Teacher activity plan

• Teacher crib sheet

• Places and People – information sheets which need cutting up to make 15 extracts (12 places and 3 people)

• Research chart for people or places (you need 15 for places and 3 for people)

• Research and Collation sheets – there are 2 Research sheets for students to use to collect information on their place or person and 5 Collation sheets on which to collate everyone’s findings (these need copying onto A3).

Note: The research chart and the research and collation sheets are combined into the same WORD document

• A map of people and places referred to in the activity (PowerPoint slide) - this is used in the discussion of findings

What places and people are provided as extracts?

The 15 places and 3 people we suggest using have been researched from opendomesday.org and domesday.pase.ac.uk.  They have been selected to reveal the impact of the Conquest and are:

• Pocklington, Ravensthorpe, Bourn, Otford, Exminster, Pickering, Knutsford, Wakefield, Oxford, Tewkesbury, Dudley, Woking, March, Withernsea, Mablethorpe.

• Robert Malet, Abbot Leofric , Judith

Maps are provided on the extracts for each place and person.

Teacher Activity Plan

Stage 1: Students’ initial research

Give students (or pairs of students) a person or place extract and a research chart for either people or places. The information the students gather is based on the questions asked by the Domesday commissioners in 1086. Give them some time to complete their chart. A ‘teacher crib sheet’ of the information that students will research is to be found below.

Note 1: If you have very able students and access to IT, you could ask your students to research the places and people online for themselves, possibly in advance of the lesson.  To research students use opendomesday.org for the places and domesday.pase.ac.uk for the people.  The database for the people is more challenging than the database for the places and you may want to bear this in mind when allocating places/people to students.

Note 2: You could research an extract from Domesday for your local area and model how to complete the research chart using this local town or village and landowner. 

Stage 2: Collating the information

Note: If you have set the research task as a preparation homework, then this is where the lesson activity will start. 

Either put up the A3 sheets for collating the findings around the classroom and ask students to work their way around, adding information onto each sheet as instructed on the top of each. Alternatively write out the headings onto large pieces of sugar paper to put on desks and provide marker pens. 

Here is a summary of the collating the findings sheets:

• A3 map of England: the task is to write the name of the place researched on the map.  For the people the name should be written wherever they held a lot of land.  Note: a PPT of this sheet is provided for display to all for reference during the final discussion.

• A3 sheet ‘Had the land changed hands?’ Yes/No (if no who still owned the same land?)

• A3 sheet ‘How many people owned the land? 1086/1088

• A3 sheet ‘Had the land value…?’ gone up a lot, gone up a bit, stayed the same, dropped a bit, dropped a lot (names of places need to be used here)

• A3 sheet ‘Has the Domesday survey revealed information useful for knowing who owned the land, what it was like and how much tax it could pay?’ Yes/No (all should decide ‘yes’!)

Stage 3: thinking about the enquiry question ‘What can Domesday Book reveal about the impact of the Norman Conquest?’

Once all the information is gathered, make sure every student views the collating resources so that they can see the patterns.  You will probably find it helpful to display the powerpoint slide pre-prepared copy of the map with places and people’s names on it.  Think-pair-share thoughts about the enquiry question: ‘What can Domesday Book reveal about the Norman Conquest?’.  In the class discussion you may want to refer back to the ‘teacher introduction’ which gives you a list of things that the students are likely to have discovered.  Here they are again:

• The value of land in most of the north went down, in some cases dramatically.  This reveals the impact of the Harrying of the North almost 20 years after it took place.

• English landowners were replaced, or at least had Norman overlords by 1086

• The total number of landowners was drastically reduced. In 1066 there were 41k landowners.  In 1086 there were just 1200+ and only 150 of great note.

• The church still held land that it had in 1066. 

You should also be able to draw out in discussion:

• The nature of the information that the surveyors were acquiring.

• Suggestions as to how this would have been experienced.

• A realisation that there is a lot of organisation and administrative skill in evidence.

• What it reveals about the economic and political power that William is seeking.

• Suggestions as to the biggest change England had seen 1066-1086.

• Ideas about who had been impacted most by the Conquest. (landowners) 

Additional questions might include: Why do you think the people who made this activity selected these 15 places and 3 people from the over 13000 places and over 17000 people named in Domesday Book? (to help answer the enquiry!)  What are the interesting untold stories in these places and in these people’s lives?

If you are doing this activity at the start of an enquiry on the Conquest, then angle discussions to arrive at a list of assertions that we can make from the evidence that Domesday provides. These can then be tested in forthcoming lessons. 

If you are doing this activity after students have learnt about the Norman Conquest, then focus discussion upon Domesday Book as a source of evidence for historians of the period.  Can they place all these findings in their historical context?

Follow up Activity Idea:

Get students to write up a textbook page to answer the enquiry that could be used by a Year 7 class.

Feedback

Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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