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Domesday Book Goes Online 100

Posted by Zonk
from the not-doomsday-that's-in-a-ghostbusters-episode dept.
Accommodate Students writes "The Domesday Book has gone online. As one of the earliest public records goes online, anyone with an internet connection will be able to access this important document. Amongst other interesting facts, the BBC is reporting that the Book can still be used today in court for property disputes. In an interesting development, the National Archives are making online searches free, but downloads of data will cost £3.50 (approx $6.50 US). Similar launches of historical websites in the past have struggled to keep up with server loads in their first days and weeks, so it remains to be seen whether the Domesday Book online will be more or less fragile than the parchment originals."
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Domesday Book Goes Online

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  • by Bushcat (615449) on Friday August 04, 2006 @10:34PM (#15850521)
    I've used this service a few times already. Each image of the original page is supplied with a translation so one can make sense of it.
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday August 04, 2006 @10:36PM (#15850528)
    Wow, I actually read two pages on the site before realizing it was DOMESday.
    • Re:Dr. Strangelove (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 04, 2006 @11:00PM (#15850632)
      You weren't too far off.

      From the wikipedia article:

      "When the book took the name "Domesday" (Middle English spelling of Doomsday) in the 12th century, it was to emphasize its definitiveness and authority (the analogy refers to the Christian notion of a Last Judgment)."


  • cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Friday August 04, 2006 @10:36PM (#15850530)
    I have property deeds from the 16th century in what is now oxfordshire, that I found years ago in a jumble sale of all places. I can track them back even further now.

    Sounds like it, anyway.
  • great! (Score:4, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Friday August 04, 2006 @10:39PM (#15850543) Homepage
    Amongst other interesting facts, the BBC is reporting that the Book can still be used today in court for property disputes.

    Finally I'll be able to settle my dispute with a neighbouring lord over these slaves [domesdaybook.net] I have. Peasants. I mean peasants, not slaves. Right.
  • "...Similar launches of historical websites in the past have struggled to keep up with server loads in their first days and weeks, so it remains to be seen whether the Domesday Book online will be more or less fragile than the parchment originals."

    So lets put it on the front page of slashdot. As if that will help it out....
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Friday August 04, 2006 @11:06PM (#15850657) Journal
    Putting public records online... Think of the privacy issues! Phishers and identity thieves will have a heyday!
  • Old tech vs new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy (13680) * on Friday August 04, 2006 @11:29PM (#15850742) Journal
    Interesting that the original domesday book is still useful for territorial disputes almost a thousand years after it was written, but that the domesday project [atsf.co.uk], a modern equivalent on laserdisk is no longer readable roughly 20 years after introduction.

    Even though later on, an effort was made to port to the PC [domesday1986.com] it reminds us just how ephemeral modern information is. If a year is a long time in politics, a decade is an eternity in computing tech.

    Open standards (and not closed or proprietary document formats) are the only weapon we have against a "digital dark ages" descending on us. There are already files I have from my early computing days (written to an Exabyte tape in a non-standard dump-format) that I can't read. My PhD thesis is out-of-bounds in digital form, unless I get a used DECstation from ebay...

    Just food for thought...

    • Re:Old tech vs new (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plover (150551) *
      Yeah, this story made me wonder if anyone from the future would ever care about our "Domesday Wiki."
    • File formats are one thing, but you mentioned the laserdisc there.

      Is that a problem with the format, or has the laserdisc just melted into nothing?

      Folks oft bring up the problem of 'disc rot' when Ask Slashdot cycles round to its 'what's a good backup solution' season, (although I've never personally observed it, my discs are all swank-tastic. JINX! I know!), but eventually this stuff is going to be destroyed somehow.

      Remember that bit in The Time Machine where the books crumble to dust? Unless we inve

      • Re:Old tech vs new (Score:3, Informative)

        by Space cowboy (13680) *
        It's actually a proprietary format on the laserdisk as well - I don't know if laserdisks (weren't they analogue ?) ever had a standard format like CDROM's do. I think it was more along the lines of "format it for this machine, and only this machine can read it".

        Now that the machine is vanished into the history books, the data is unreadable (or was, until they ported it to the PC, but I believe that took a *lot* of effort, and who's to say that in 20 years, the PC will still be around in it's current form ?

        S
      • the problem was the video footage - its all analogue and the masters are stored of some archaic tape format that no one at the BBC knows how to read anymore.

        extracting the text data is a doddle, but the video is fast degrading and the only copyable copys are not 1st generation.

    • Excellent point. The solution? Distribute freely and as widely as possible.
    • Re:Old tech vs new (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Saturday August 05, 2006 @06:19AM (#15851638) Journal
      The 1980s Domesday Project is available online - it's still perfectly readable.
      The biggest problem with getting the Domesday Project online was *not* reading the data - it was COPYRIGHTS (and finding all the copyright holders down to get permission).

      You can use the 1986 Domesday project here: http://www.domesday1986.com/ [domesday1986.com]
      • Re:Old tech vs new (Score:3, Informative)

        by vidarh (309115)
        Interestingly I can't get at it.... Maybe I'm missing a plugin or maybe the site is experiencing problems, but I only get a blank window. If anything that illustrates the problems of digital versions nicely. Though it may be possible for me to get at it with another browser etc. - access to it certainly is more brittle and will require ongoing maintenance.
        • Re:Old tech vs new (Score:2, Informative)

          by leenks (906881)
          No, it just proves that the BBC who didn't keep any records of Copyright were unable to archive the material properly, and now you have only a couple of portals in which to view the original data (coming from the original disks via an emulator / translator of some kind no doubt). Paper/parchment needs archiving too, it is just that the digital equivalent is somewhat more difficult and there are no surviving copyrights. I suspect that the digital version will be widely distributed in future years when copyri
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, SOMEONE had to say it.
  • by twitter (104583) on Friday August 04, 2006 @11:41PM (#15850782) Homepage Journal

    it remains to be seen whether the Domesday Book online will be more or less fragile than the parchment originals."

    That's a joke, but it demonstrates a principle of digital information that people have not gotten used to yet.

    The first time someone gets a copy of the original, the document will have doubled it's durability. If they really liberate it, they will immortalize it and greatly reduce the cost of distributing it. "Protecting" something you want to publish reduces it's chance of survival. This is not special to electronic publishing.

    What's different is the cheapness of sharing and that removes the need to protect publications. Once upon a time, people chained books to their shelves because that book took a substantial fraction of someones' life to make or copy and there were very few coppies. Today, the contents can be duplicated without special material in the blink of an eye, unless there's some nasty DRM stuck on it. DRM makes it difficult for the honest user to read and impossible to copy. Chains are no longer required and making digital information more difficult to work with than what it replaces is perverse.

    • It's only more durable if people keep making copies. The problem with digital copies is that technology quickly moves on and makes it hard to read old data - NASA for instance struggles with keeping up with this, losing vast amounts of data beause their inability to get at it while there's still working equipment isn't good enough - even if something is widely spread, the question is who keeps a copy and ensures they keep a copy in a safe way?

      Domesday is likely to survive in digital form for a long time,

      • About the only way I know of to preserve content for long periods of time is to etch the information in clearly legible plain text on gold tablets. This can be done microscopically, but the issue is the same: Find some medium to perserve the data that avoids technology obsolecense.

        The only problem with this strategy (and it is something that has been used for thousands of years in the past with great success), is that sometimes the gold itself as bullion is more valuable than the information it contains.
        • About the only way I know of to preserve content for long periods of time is to etch the information in clearly legible plain text on gold tablets. [...] The only problem with this strategy [...] is that sometimes the gold itself as bullion is more valuable than the information it contains.

          Nickel or nickel alloys can be used, which are less intrinsically valuable (although any material, especially metal, has some intrinsic value).
          Here are two [svensk.info] companies [norsam.com] that micro-etch information onto nickel or nickel all

          • Thanks for the information. This is certainly an improvement over pure gold tablets, but it does require some more advanced metalugical skills to put stuff like this together. Still, if you were to try and preserve important documents for substantial periods of time, this is the way to go.

            I love the comment on the durible.info site that suggests a document lifetime of over a million years... surviving an ice age or two. That is document preservation!

            Now to find something worth doing this sort of presevat
    • Someone has read http://www.free-culture.cc/ [free-culture.cc] the book by Lawrence Lessig?
  • Was I the only one who thought that some religious cult made an e-book predicting the end of the world?
  • In related news, the Bloomsday Book is also online, and can be found here [gutenberg.org]....
  • property (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denidoom (865832) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:23AM (#15850895) Journal
    I wonder who would gain from a property dispute? the Black Plague in the 14th century devestated the English population and as a result a lot of peasants became landowners themselves. They were able to negotiate these land deals because basically there weren't many laborers left to work the land and the lords were desperate, so they gave the peasants land in exchange for labor. In fact things were really rearranged quite a bit at that time (14th C) regarding property. I am unsure how anyone could prove a valid claim -they would have to do some serious researching into the following centuries proving the land wasn't legitimately sold or transferred.
    • Re:property (Score:5, Informative)

      by niktemadur (793971) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:41AM (#15851112)
      Please mod this guy up, he's got one helluva point.

      At least a quarter of the population was directly killed by the Plague within a six year span. As noted, this was bound to jumble and reassemble the social structure in a major way, a process that probably lasted for decades.

      However, a bit of speculation: Many land-owning families must have been wiped clean off the face of the Earth, many others would probably have migrated elsewhere, London perhaps, in an attempt to find better fortunes. It's entirely possible that the canniest survivors took advantage of the chaos, changing their names overnight, becoming 'cousins' to the less fortunate families, claiming title to their lands. In this manner, the names would remain the same, albeit under false pretenses. So maybe the property structure was kept more intact than we might suppose at face value.
    • I'd imagine it'd more useful to dispute land boundaries, i.e. who owns that strip of land between us. Assuming there are no other more recent records, an entry there would probably be acceptable in court as evidence of which house owned it.
  • First off, what an incredible document, it has that whole Voynich Manuscript mystique to it. I'll be sure peruse deeper once the Slashdot Effect settles down a bit. I'll be a good cybercitizen today.

    Secondly, Domesday is a word I've never encountered before, so that my brain filled in automatically with the second 'o' and erased the 'e', so as to spell Doomsday. It's a neat trick, and from what I'm reading in this thread, most of us fell for it. There you have it, the power of the brain in action.
    • Secondly, Domesday is a word I've never encountered before, so that my brain filled in automatically with the second 'o' and erased the 'e', so as to spell Doomsday. It's a neat trick, and from what I'm reading in this thread, most of us fell for it. There you have it, the power of the brain in action.

      Actually, from what I know (admittedly not much, but I think Wikipedia is on my side here) that's not a bad interpretation. Domesday is some sort of Middle/Old English word that means pretty close to "Doomsday

    • There you have it, the deceptive power of the brain in action.
      Fixt.
      There you have it, the illusionary power of the brain in action.
      Runner-up.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:02AM (#15851178) Journal
    so it remains to be seen whether the Domesday Book online will be more or less fragile than the parchment originals."

    More fragile. The parchment, if properly stored in a cool, dark, dry place (which is easy to do and requires very little technology - almost none, actually) will last another 1000 years. I seriously doubt ANYTHING online will be around in 1000 years. I doubt we will have electricity in 1000 years.

    RS

    • "so it remains to be seen whether the Domesday Book online will be more or less fragile than the parchment originals."

      More fragile. The parchment, if properly stored in a cool, dark, dry place (which is easy to do and requires very little technology - almost none, actually) will last another 1000 years. I seriously doubt ANYTHING online will be around in 1000 years. I doubt we will have electricity in 1000 years.

      Or the parchment could be destroyed in a fire tomorrow, while the digital version gets spre

    • I understand the doomsday book to be vellum, not parchment. (Tanned calf skin, not cellulose). Which means that barring deliberate destruction it will probably outlast the castle that its housed in.

      Vellum is basically inert, and suffers damage only from external sources. Parchment will degrade naturally over time, even when kept in a managed environment.
    • Nothing, except costs, stops someone from making multiple modern ink-on-sheepskin reprints and storing them in environmentally-archival locations around the world.

      Personally, I think society owes it to the future to make such repositories, holding 10,000-year-archives of the worlds most important ancient documents and keeping them safe from the end of the human race.

      While they are at it, throw in some modern-day Rosetta Stone equivalents.
  • Domesday, like the Bayeux Tapestry, seems to me like it should be in the public domain. It's a cultural treasure of the whole world, right? But the photographs of it are all modern, so they're protected by copyright, and the governments holding the documents keep them under strict lock and key so you can't take your own photos, and therefore the documents stay out of public ownership. Is my analysis of the legalities correct? If so, is there any way out of this conundrum?
    • Easy: Buy access to the photographs, then reproduce the text.

      Hard: Buy access to the highest-resolution-possible version of the photographs, then hire an expert reproduction-artist/legitimate-forger to "redraw" each page onto similar materials.

      It's my understanding such facscimilie reproductions are already widely available and predate this project.

      Remember, not everyone needs access to a high-resolution copy. Most of us are fine with either just the text or a cheap facscimilie.
    • No, the photgraphs are not protected and completely in the public domain. The reason is that they are two-dimensional reproductions of an ancient document. The same goes for old paintings. Nobody gains a copyright from copying public domain material.

      I personally find it despicable that they want to charge people for access, and if they have any kind of DRM, I hope they all go to hell.
    • See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library _v._Corel_Corp [wikipedia.org]. - at least in the US, a photograph of a public domain image cannot be copyrighted.

      Having said that, I'm curious what the situation is in the UK. For example, I'm sure I remember seeing things like "Crown Copyright" on reproductions in museums, even when the original must surely have been out of copyright.
  • pay ??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by madhippy (525384) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @03:13AM (#15851343)
    what annoys me is that whenever the British government/local government or other British institutions put this sort of information online here in the UK - they expect to be able to charge for it (our taxes paid for the running of these institutions etc) ...

    compare that to the way the US gov./institutions tends to free up information ... imagine paying to download nasa/hubble images !!

    (tho sometimes US orgs tend to go a bit too far - eg Americas Army)
    • Indeed, mod parent up. So you get really excited and go to the National archives and type in the name of your city/town/village to see what was going on there a thousand years ago - it returns half a dozen searches - saying yes yes yes we've got information about these people/places, here's one line of introductory text, you click on any of them, and it says "3.50 pounds before you can see anything please". Deeply disappointing. See nothing unless you pay us 3.50 (that about 5 dollars I think). Heck, at lea
    • I don't have a problem with that - I wouldn't expect it to be PPV forever, I bet that in a year or two they will drop the price and eventually make access free. I'd rather have it online (probably achieved at considerable cost - it's not just a load of page scans, it's indexed) with a price tag than not online.

      The records of parliament and my local councils are readable and searchable online for free, which is what bothers me more.
    • "(tho sometimes US orgs tend to go a bit too far - eg Americas Army)"

      Oh, c'mon. You think Syria and Iran are too far?
    • Exactly. There is however stopping people from sharing their downloads, making their own archive, as long as they don't include new work like commentaries or translations.
    • Bah, it's close to the same. We have to pay for everything else. Want to use the road that your taxes paid for? Sure thing, we call it a "toll" road, so pay up again. Want to have a swim at the public pool(not really, no, but...) $2 adult, $1 kids, oh, and we'll be raising property taxes because the pool needs more maintenance anyways.
    • But the point is that your taxes are not paying the full cost of the Domesday book going online. Just as our taxes don't cover the full cost of prescriptions so that a lot of us have to pay for them, despite the NHS getting a lot of tax money. If you don't like it that's OK: write to your MP. It could be made free (like the major museums) - they could redirect tax money or lottery money from somewhere else to pay for it, or could raise taxes to cover stuff like this. However, it has to be paid for and o
    • what annoys me is that whenever the British government/local government or other British institutions put this sort of information online here in the UK - they expect to be able to charge for it (our taxes paid for the running of these institutions etc) ...

      This is a consequence of the decision to devolve the management of certain parts of government and give them what is known as trading fund status. Effectively, these have different financial arrangements to other parts of government. To quote from here [ordnancesurvey.co.uk]:

  • Wasn't there a 2-video-disk electronic, multimedia doomsday book...
    a bit like the Foxfire Series of books (in that people went out
    into their communities to gather the content - photos, songs -
    on paper or tape - etc.?

    Is the new version on-line?

    If not now, when? :-/
  • What I don't understand is why this had taken so long. Andrew Ford, in his book Spinning the Web [amazon.com] published in 1994 said that he got his experience of building websites from a project with the British Library to put the Domesday book online. If so, then the Electronic Domesday book has taken longer to complete than the original.
  • So have the properties been encoded for Google maps yet?

  • The questions asked can be summarised as follows:

    1. What is the manorglossary icon called?
    2. Who held it in the time of King Edward?
    3. Who holds it now?
    4. How many hides are there?
    5. How many ploughglossary icons on the demesneglossary icon and among the men?
    6. How many free men, sokemenglossary icon, villans, cottarsglossary icon, slavesglossary icon?
    7. How much woodland, meadow, pasture, mills, fisheries?
    8. How much has been added to or taken away from the manor?
    9. How much was the whole worth
    • I take it upon myself to answer your queries. (1)-(10) What are you smokin, glossary icon indeed. 11. Are you, or is a person you are closely acquainted with, a witch?
      She prefers wiccan, you insensitive clod. 12. What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?

      African or European?

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