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Searching for the territorial origins of England

  • Stuart Brookes (a1)
Extract

When the Normans arrived in England in AD 1066 they found a kingdom divided into a distinctive and complicated administrative geography. In compiling Domesday Book, the great survey of holdings and liabilities over much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086, the assessors grouped information firstly into ‘shires’—districts that are in many cases the precursors of modern counties—and then into smaller divisions such as hundreds, wapentakes and vills (estates), with additional groupings such as multiple hundreds and regional ealdormanries also discernible in the source. These administrative entities clearly had a territorial composition. Using the boundaries of estates, parishes and hundreds mapped at later dates, numerous scholars have sought to reconstruct the administrative geography described in Domesday Book. The resulting maps have, in turn, been interpreted as the product of several centuries of developing territoriality and of continual social and political change. The shires of Norfolk and Suffolk (the ‘north’ and ‘south folk’), for example, appear to fossilise the extents of the kingdom of the East Anglians as it existed 300 or 400 years before Domesday survey; in other cases, clusters of hundreds have been argued to represent post-Roman tribal groupings.

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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