Is the Domesday Book a one-off census in the wake of the Norman conquest? One can imagine that William wanted an accurate feudal picture of his new kingdom but was it the norm? Did other dukes and kings in Europe have similar records of their realms? Did any such book survive?

  • As you don't actually note "France" or "Germany" in the subject, I think that the title should be amended to match "Medieval European principalities" instead of "(French or German) duchies".
    – gktscrk
    May 20, 2020 at 5:41

4 Answers 4


This question is vague in many ways, and there are good mentions in the above replies. However, I also felt I could improve my previous answer by some other mentions -- and to specifically note that while rare, censuses were a thing because people wanted to estimate their tax intake.

It is also impossible to estimate what has not survived down the ages.


Another concrete option that's not been mentioned thus far includes the Danish Census Book (Kong Valdemars Jordebog) commissioned by King Valdemar II in the 13th century. The full book is a summation of earlier documents, with the majority written in the 1230's to 1250's, but some parts dating to 1200.

For many areas in Northern Europe, including the then-Danish Duchy of Estonia this book carries the first written mention of villages, manors, and such. The lists for the Duchy of Estonia were compiled in 1230 and revised in 1241.

This is obviously an invaluable document for us for these areas.


Beyond the Domesday Book, we have:


Ce document donne les résultats d’un recensement des feux, c’est-à-dire des foyers contribuables en 1328. C’est un document de synthèse. Il totalise les paroisses et les feux recensés par les administrateurs et juges du domaine royal que sont les baillis et les sénéchaux. Le recensement dont ce document donne le résultat final n’a pas pris en compte tout le royaume de France mais uniquement le domaine royal. Nous avons donc un compte récapitulatif qui est un document de synthèse. C’est un document de nature fiscale.

Modified (by my own meagre skills) Google translation:

This document gives the results of a census of feus, that is to say, taxable households in 1328. It is a combined manuscript. It totals the parishes and feus identified by the administrators and judges of the royal domain who were the bailiffs and the seneschals. The census for which this document gives the final result did not take into account the entire kingdom of France but only the royal domain. We have a summary account what is a combined manuscript [... a synthesized summary... of other manuscripts]. It is a tax-related document.


  • Liber Focorum Regni Neapoli which was produced on the orders of Alfonso V of Aragon to cover his Kingdom of Naples (1440s) / mentioned here but no WP link;
  • The Quaternus Declaracionum which contains fiscal data for Taranto (1460) / mentioned here but no WP link;


The Liber Censuum spans 492 to 1192, and covers a part of the Papacy's expected tax basis.


At least the Hospitallers performed surveys of their (and previous Templar lands here), as cited from Baigent's 'The Temple and the Lodge':

In 1338, nine years after Bruce's death, the Grand Master of the Hospitallers requested a list of all Temple properties acquired by his Order everywhere in the world. Every regional or national Prior was instructed to submit an inventory of Templar holdings in his particular sphere of authority. During the last century, a document, quoting the response of the English Prior, was found in the library of the Order of St John at Valetta. After itemising a substantial number of Templar possessions acquired by the Hospitallers in England, the manuscript says:

Of the land, buildings ... churches and all other possessions which were Templar in Scotland the reply was nothing of any value ... all were destroyed, burnt and reduced to nothing because of the enduring wars which had continued over many years.

Further Reading

I would recommend 'Antecedents of Censuses from Medieval to Nation States' which has chapters on Medieval England and Renaissance Italy. The Google Books' showcase for me ended before either of those chapters (but may vary regionally).

  • 1
    In the French part you could translate "feux" by hearth. Feux is never written "feus" in French.
    – MakorDal
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:33
  • @MakorDal: Thanks for the comment. Admittedly "feus" was the English plural of a "feu" as in "feu fiscal". I admit, "hearth" might make more sense. Does this logical sound okay to you, or should I change the "feu" to "hearth"?
    – gktscrk
    Jun 26, 2020 at 13:29
  • I never heard of "feu fiscal". But that does not mean much. Both can be right, as they might overlap.
    – MakorDal
    Jun 26, 2020 at 14:22

The Domesday Book was exceptional in its time period, both for having been done to begin with and for its magnitude.

Regular and systematic censuses weren't a thing until - depending on the country - the industrial revolution was around the corner or in full motion. For instance, France conducted its first modern census under Napoleon in 1801.


"Equivalence" to the Domesday Book is somehow a rather elastic condition but there are other documents with the purpose of giving "an accurate feudal picture" of kingdoms. In fact, the purpose was to assess the monarch's rights in order to manage them.

In Catalonia we have the liber feudorum maior, which is not a census but a compilation of the count's rights and the documents supporting those rights. Like the Domesday Book it is a feudal picture of the country and an indispensable source for the study of its time.


The census in Sweden (done by Tabellverket) became classified in the 1740s (due to the fact that it was shown that our population was far lower than expected - low population was thought to mean that it would have been far easier to conquer Sweden than what the impression from outside were.)

But we didn't have a Domesday book in the meaning of taking stock of possessions and ground controlled.

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