Gegaderung > Anglo-Saxon Discussion

Population of England in 1066 AD.

(1/2) > >>

John Nicholas Cross:
I've read and heard very different estimates of 'England's' population in 1066AD.  It's varied from 1 million to 3.5 million, all from various 'experts', both dead and alive.  What is the opinion of members that have taken great interest in this period, I'd be most interested in the general opinion?  John N. Cross.

Yes, I've come across these variations too. I tend to go with one and a half to two million.  I remember reading somewhere once that if you take out all the cities, towns and larger villages in modern England, you're left with the kind of population density of AS England.

You get even more spectacular disagreement about the amount of forested land in England before 1066, from mostly tree-covered to mostly cultivated!

John Nicholas Cross:
Yes Leofwin,  I've also come across the aforestation differences too.  I should think the cultivation answer is likely to be nearer the truth.  I welcome others opinions on both these subjects.    John.

peter horn:
and of course there is the well-known difference between forest and woodland

David Cowley:
I am interested in this as an Ecologist. On woodland in 1086, Oliver Rackham did a lot of work, the findings of which are in a number of books he's written on the history of the British countryisde. As I recall, he made maps by shire using the Doomesday refs to woodland. One problem was that in at least some shires the ref was only to the existance of woodland, leaving its actual area for any settlement to be guessed at. More detail however in others, allowing a much better picture to be built up. Recall overall woodland cover thought to be about one third of the land in 1086 - rather more than today (which is about 15% for Britain as a whole and rather less for England only). Some shires (Sussex) somewhat higer, some rather lower (Lincs may have had very little I think). I understood the figure was reasonable, Rackham being a highly respected academic in this field.

These woodlands by and large were managed for either timber, or smaller stuff by coppicing/ pollarding (or a mixture of both). As wildlife very quickly takes over abandoned land, I suspect that much of the large areas of 'waste' recorded in Doomesday would have been some kind scrubland/ secondary woodland (birch, hazel and suchlike spring up quickly), but as there was no management and it was formerly farmed, it didn't get classified with the woodland as such. Note there were no fir trees or plantations of the kinds common today, nor syccamore trees; it was all stuff like oak, ash, beech (in the south) for timber, hazel for coppice, with some alder and birch doubtless in there too.

I think one of the most stiking differences now is the sheer density of population, roads and other development over much of England today. (Isn't it ironic that much of the new archaeology that helps understand the past better is only being found because of new developments which are eating up the sites?)


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version