Thursday, 12 May 2011

BBC Domesday once more

The BBC has finally made its Domesday Project accessible again at, which looked at the lives of one million people in 1986 across the British Isles.

The event was part of 900th anniversary celebrations of 1066, when the English were invaded by the Normans under William the Conqueror, though the opportunity was taken to include all of the United Kingdom. Interesting to note though that the BBC seems to be in ignorance about what that actually is, if you read its 'What is Domesday' page - "The whole of the UK – including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man". Sorry Beeb, your researcher clearly needs to go back to school - both are crown dependencies, and not part of the UK. (And the archive at Kew is the National Archives, not the National Archive!)

The results were originally presented on the BBC's Laserdisc format, which never caught on as a technology, meaning few got to see it. (The first television job I ever worked on was as a student in Belfast in 1990, where I was a gofer on a teacher training package being filmed at Stranmillis College on Laserdisc, and I remember how cumbersome the discs were, the same size as vinyl LPs, though heavier!). The technology became obsolete very quickly, and the chances of this Domesday survey lasting as long as the original seemed to be remote.

The data has been retrieved though, and the new site is interactive, allowing you to provide updates - I've already submitted an update of a view from the hills behind Largs to the town.

A great venture, but bear in mind that in February the BBC had plans to dump 172 of its online web projects permanently (see this post), so whether it remains for another 900 years may still be up for debate!

UPDATE: Somewhat reassuringly, the National Archives at Kew is now involved - it's news announcement on the project is available at


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