:: The old measures used in France ::
Aune, Toise, Pied De Roi, Setier, Gros, Bicherée...

Until the end of the 18th century, measures were extremely diverse. Measures of the same nature and almost the same value had names which were different according to the provinces they came from, or even according to towns and villages situated in the same region. On the contrary, the physical contents of measures which had the same name, generally speaking differed according to places, but also according to the concerned guild or the object that was measured. Besides, scales of multiple and submultiples were not coherent and varied depending on regions.

A certain uniformity had reigned at the beginning of the christian era, in the gallo-roman period, when the roman foot and pound became widespread throughout Europe. However, in that country that was to become France, power was at the time shared between a substantial number of lords and towns. This huge division ,made measure names and values evolve "in isolation".

Thus, a measure "system" developped within each human group, territorial authority or guild. The system suited the needs of each group and it was often homogeneous as far as places or jobs are concerned. However, the French measures as a whole were considered as "a preposterous and undefined chaos" by Gattey, a contemporary of that time (1801).

However, the variety of measure names was no surprise, if one considers the multiplicity of local patois, and the presence of two big linguistic groups, "langue d’oïl" in northern provinces, and "langue d’oc" in southern ones.

All the various names of these old measures were often very colourful and linked either to people size (foot, thumb, etc.), or to their skills (journal : area of land people could till in one day, a day being "jour" in French)…

Our modern conception of measuring, which consists in determining physical size, may distort the judgment on our ancestors’ measurement methods. Indeed, in their minds, the notion of physical size was often only of secondary importance and gave way to the notion of "value/ labour" or "value/ money" notably in terms of cereals or land.

Anyway, in the 18th century, the mutliplicity of these measures – which had no common denominator – began to become extremely annoying especially regarding administrative, commercial and scientific activities.

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