During the last years of his reign, King William (the Conqueror) had his power threatened from a number of quarters. The greatest threats came from King Canute of Denmark and King Olaf of Norway. In the Eleventh Century, part of the taxes raised went into a fund called the Danegeld, which was kept to buy off marauding Danish armies.
One of the most likely reasons for the record to be commissioned, was for William to see how much tax he was getting from the country and therefore how much Danegeld was available.
The Domesday survey is far more than just a physical record though. It is a detailed statement of lands held by the king and by his tenants and of the resources that went with those lands. It records which manors rightfully belonged to which estates, thus ending years of confusion resulting from the gradual and sometimes violent dispossession of the Anglo-Saxons by their Norman conquerors.
It was moreover a 'feudal' statement, giving the identities of the tenants-in-chief (landholders) who held their lands directly from the Crown, and of their tenants and under tenants.
The fact that the scheme was executed and brought to complete fruition in two years is a tribute of the political power and formidable will of William the Conqueror.
One of the most important near-contemporary accounts of the making of the Domesday survey is that of the Anglo-Saxon chronicler. He tells us that William:
"...had much though and very deep discussion about this country - how it was occupied or with what sorts of people. Then he sent his men all over England into every shire and had them find out how many hundred hides there were, or what land and cattle the king himself had, or what dues he ought to have in twelve...