Hide (unit)

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The hide was originally an amount of land sufficient to support a household, but later in Anglo-Saxon England became a unit used in assessing land for liability to "geld", or land tax. The geld would be collected at a stated rate per hide. After the Norman Conquest of England hidage assessments were recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 and the Norman kings continued to use them (with amendments) for tax assessments until the end of the 12th century.

The hide was not a fixed area of land.

The Original Meaning of Hide

The Anglo-Saxon word for a hide was hid (or its synonym hiwisc). Both words are believed to be derived from the same root hiwan, which meant "family".

Bede in his Ecclesiastical History (c.731) describes the extent of a territory by the number of families which it supported, as (for instance), in Latin, terra x familiarum meaning 'a territory of ten families'. In the Anglo-Saxon version of the same work hid or hiwan is used in place of terra ... familiarum. Other documents of the period show the same equivalence and it is clear that the word hide originally signified land sufficient for the support of a peasant and his household.

Development as a unit of taxation

Subsequently the hide lost its original meaning and became the basis of an artificial system of assessment of land for purposes of taxation. Many details of the development of the system during the 350 years which elapsed between the time of...
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