Why is land-assessment important? There are lots of reasons. The following are in no particular order of importance.
- It records the perceived agricultural wealth of the country at a time when agriculture was the basis for almost all wealth.
- It records the relative wealth of different parts of the country.
- Land-valuations feature in huge numbers of mediaeval records. Our sources for Early Scotland are so scarce that we should not overlook what can be inferred from later documents.
- Land-assessment systems can be mapped to each other much like currencies. There existed ‘exchange-rates’ between them. These give us an arithmetic handle.
- Most history is based on written records. The rules of language and orthography are flexible therefore much interpretation is subjective. Land-assessment escapes many of these problems. The laws of arithmetic are timeless and inflexible. If we can establish the pattern then we can fill in the gaps in our knowledge by deduction. Land-assessment can give us certainties that history seldom can.
- Land-assessment systems tie to levying arrangements for armies and navies.
- Land-assessment systems tie to rentals.
- Land-assessment systems tie to church maintenance.
- Land-assessment systems tie to the maintenance of officials within early societies (poets, harpers, pipers, doctors etc.).
Above all this is an empirical process. We can make judgements based on evidence which can be established objectively.