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The following systems arose from earlier systems, and in many cases utilise parts of much older systems. For the most part they were used to varying degrees in the Middle Ages and surrounding time periods. Some of these systems found their way into later systems, such as the Imperial system and even SI.

English system

Before Roman units were reintroduced in 1066 by William the Conqueror, there was an Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) system of measure, of which few details survive. It probably included the following units of length:

The best-attested of these is the perch, which varied in length from 10 to 25 feet, with the most common value (1612 feet or 5.03 m) remaining in use until the twentieth century.[1]

Later development of the English system continued in 1215 in the Magna Carta.[2] Standards were renewed in 1496, 1588 and 1758.[3]

Some of these units would go on to be used in later Imperial units and in the US system, which are based on the English system from the 1700s.

Danish system

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From May 1, 1683, King Christian V of Denmark introduced an office to oversee weights and measures, a justervæsen, to be led by Ole Rømer. The definition of the alen was set to 2 Rhine feet. Rømer later discovered that differing standards for the Rhine foot existed, and in 1698 an iron Copenhagen standard was made. A pendulum definition for the foot was first suggested by Rømer, introduced in 1820, and changed in 1835. The metric system was introduced in 1907.

Length

Volume

Weight

Miscellaneous

Dutch system

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The Dutch system was not standardised until Napoleon introduced the metric system. Different towns used measures with the same names but differing sizes.

Some common measures:

Length

Volume

Weight

Finnish system

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In Finland, approximate measures derived from body parts and were used for a long time, some being later standardised for the purpose of commerce. Some Swedish, and later some Russian units have also been used.

Length

Area

Volume

Weight

Miscellaneous

French system

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In France, again, there were many local variants. For instance, the lieue could vary from 3.268 km in Beauce to 5.849 km in Provence. Between 1812 and 1839, many of the traditional units continued in metrified adaptations as the mesures usuelles.

In Paris, the redefinition in terms of metric units made 1 m = 443.296 ligne = 3 pied 11.296 ligne.

In Quebec, the surveys in French units were converted using the relationship 1 pied (of the French variety; the same word is used for English feet as well) = 12.789 inches (of English origin). Thus a square arpent was 5299296.0804 in² or about 36,801 ft² or 0.8448 acre.

There were many local variations; the metric conversions below apply to the Quebec and Paris definitions.

Length

Area

Volume

Weight

German system

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Up to the introduction of the metric system, almost every town in Germany had their own definitions. It is said that by 1810, in Baden alone, there were 112 different Ellen.

Length

Norwegian system

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Before 1541, there were no common definition for length measures in Norway, and local variants flourished. In 1541, an alen in Denmark and Norway was defined by law to be the Sjælland alen. Subsequently, the alen was defined by law as 2 Rhine feet from 1683. From 1824, the basic unit was defined as a fot being derived from astronomy as the length of a one-second pendulum times 1238 at a latitude of 45°. The metric system was introduced in 1887.

Length

Area

Volume

Weight

Nautical

Monetary

Miscellaneous

Portuguese system

The various systems of weights and measures used in Portugal until the 19th century combine remote Roman influences with medieval influences from northern Europe and Islam.The Roman and northern European influences were more present in the north. The Islamic influence was more present in the south of the country. Fundamental units like the alqueire and the almude were imported by the northwest of Portugal in the 11th century, before the country became independent of León.

The gradual long-term process of standardization of weights and measures in Portugal is documented mainly since the mid-14th century. In 1352, municipalities requested standardization in a parliament meeting (Cortes). In response, Afonso IV decided to set the alna (aune) of Lisbon as standard for the linear measures used for color fabrics across the country. A few years later, Pedro I carried a more comprehensive reform, as documented in the parliament meeting of 1361: the arrátel folforinho of Santarém should be used for weighing meat; the arroba of Lisbon would be the standard for the remaining weights; cereals should be measured by the alqueire of Santarém; the almude of Lisbon should be used for wine. With advances, adjustments and setbacks, this framework predominated until the end of the 15th century.

Further information: Portuguese customary units.

Romanian system

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The measures of the old Romanian system varied greatly not only between the three Romanian states (Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania), but sometimes also inside the same country. The origin of some of the measures are the Latin (such as iugăr unit), Slavic (such as vadră unit) and Greek (such as dram unit) and Turkish (such as palmac unit) systems.

This system is no longer in use since the adoption of the metric system in 1864.

Length

Area

Volume

Weight

Russian and Tatar systems

See:

Scottish system

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Length

Spanish system

There were several variants. The Castilian is shown.

Length

Swedish system

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In Sweden, a common system for weights and measures was introduced by law in 1665. Before that, there were a number of local variants. The system was slightly revised in 1735. In 1855, a decimal reform was instituted that defined a new Swedish inch as 110 foot. It did not last long, because the metric system was subsequently introduced in 1889. Up to the middle of the 19th century there was a death penalty for falsifying weights or measures.

Length

Area

Volume

Weight

Nautical

Monetary

See also

References

  1. ^ Fernie, E. C. (1985). "Anglo-Saxon Lengths: The 'Northern' System, the Perch and the Foot". Archaeological Journal. 142 (1): 248–249. doi:10.1080/00665983.1985.11021064. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  2. ^ Magna Carta
  3. ^ Knight, Charles (1840). The Penny magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volume 9. London: Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. pp. 221–2. In 1758 the legislature turned attention to this subject; and after some investigations on the comparative lengths of the various standards, ordered a rod to be made of brass, about 38 or 39 inches long, graduated (measured) from the Royal Society's yard: this was marked “Standard Yard, 1758,” and was given into the care of the clerk of the House of Commons. For commercial purposes another bar was made, with the yard marked off from the same standard; but it had two upright fixed markers, placed exactly one yard apart, between which any commercial yard measures might be placed, in order to have their accuracy tested: it was graded in feet, one of the feet was graded in inches, and one of the inches in ten parts. This standard yardstick was kept at the Exchequer. In 1760, a copy of Bird's standard, made two years before, was constructed.