[NTG-context] OT world history: other measuring systems?

Jean-Pierre Delange adeimantos at free.fr
Tue Jan 25 21:31:13 CET 2022

As you know, there were very variable measurement systems in Europe 
after the fall of the Roman Empire, depending on the region within the 
same country. It is difficult to say precisely why political unity, when 
there was one in a given country, did not make it possible to 
systematize the use of the same standard of measurement throughout the 
country, because it is quite astonishing to see that the cubit, the 
foot, the pound etc. vary from one region to another during the medieval 
period. The answer to this question on the variability and versatility 
of measures is undoubtedly due to the fact that the birth of modern 
nations has been accompanied by the emergence of a rational State which 
has increasingly taken the place of a rational administration (legal) of 
social relationship. The French Revolution of 1789 carried out the 
efforts at rationalization that we had seen develop with the appearance 
of a strong State from the end of the wars of religion and the reign of 
Louis XIV in France: the metric system (based on a segment of the 
Greenwich meridian) in base 10, makes it possible to obtain measurements 
of surfaces, distances and volumes which are the same everywhere and 
which do not vary according to whether one is in Normandy, Lorraine or 
Provence. For those interested in the point Didot (the printing point 
under the French monarchy), its value was 1/72 of a foot (of the king's 
foot)... which king's foot could not be a foot of English king, nor a 
symbolic value as guinea was !

see here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_measurement_in_France
and here : 

Le 25/01/2022 à 20:28, Henning Hraban Ramm via ntg-context a écrit :
> Am 25.01.22 um 18:27 schrieb Aditya Mahajan:
>> On Tue, 25 Jan 2022, Henning Hraban Ramm via ntg-context wrote:
>>> why didn’t "we" stick to
>>> the Roman system?
>> All you need to do is look at the definitions of roman imperial units 
>> to understand why we didn't stick to that:
>> An inch was the width of the base of the thumb, a foot, well length 
>> of a foot, a fathom was the width of outstretched arms, yard was the 
>> length of the man's belt, mile was 1000 paces of marching roman 
>> soldiers, and so on.
> Ah, of course. So “normalization” to some ruler’s shoe size was 
> already progress.
>> In India, from what I am aware, the pre-imperial units of 
>> measurements had similar origins as imperial. Length was based on 
>> width of fingers, cubit (also used in other civilizations of the 
>> time), person-height and so on. As with the imperial units, these 
>> definitions were not uniform and went through a uniformization 
>> process in the middle ages. However, India moved to imperial units 
>> with colonization, and adopted metric system after Independence.
>> Some of the units, particularly for measurement of land area, are 
>> still in use as they are effectively codified in the land records. 
> Interesting.
>> Wikipedia has some summary of the ancient and medieval systems in India.
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_units_of_measurement
>> But it got more complicated than that (particularly for time). See, 
>> for example:
>> https://sites.google.com/site/mathematicsmiscellany/time-measurement-in-ancient-india 
> Oh, that is nice!
>> There is also this fascinating book which covers the non-European 
>> history of mathematics (a lot of which in ancient times was to do 
>> with units and measurements but more importantly, calculations):
>> https://press.princeton.edu/books/paperback/9780691135267/the-crest-of-the-peacock 
> Yes, that’s probably worth reading.
> Thank you!
> Hraban
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Jean-Pierre Delange
Professeur Agrégé de Philosophie (HC)
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