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'Why still read it? Why should scholars consult it and undergraduates study it? The plan answer is that still after ninety years remains the greatest single book on English medieval history': thus J. C. Holt in his foreword to this new impression of one of the classic historical texts in any language.
In three extended essays Maitland exploits the information in Domesday to analyse and reconstruct the society, law, government, economy and even something of the mental and imaginative world of early medieval England. Essay I examines the nature of English society in 1066 and how, by 1086, this had changed.
The second essay explores pre-Conquest England, stretching back through the Anglo-Saxon law codes and land-books to the English settlement, its social structure and administrative geography. The third essay uses an exhaustive discussion of the hide (that 'dreary old question') to look again at methods of assessment and measurement, and their relationship to the wealth and resources of England; in this Maitland displays, in addition to his customary lucidity, subtlety and enormous powers of historical insight, very considerable statistical competence, of an order hitherto foreign to English historical writing.
In his foreword Professor Holt looks afresh at this monument of medieval scholarship, assessing its place both within the wider context of historical study, and also, more specifically, its continued contribution to that debate on the nature of Domesday Book with which scholars have been preoccupied for nearly one hundred years. That Maitland's hypotheses and conclusions should still be central to such a debate is not the least remarkable feature of this extraordinary book.