Mila jako miara obszarów zasiedlanych w Europie przedprzemysłowej


  • Anna Dunin-Wąsowicz ul. Przasnyska 18 m. 20, 01-756 Warszawa

Słowa kluczowe:

miary powierzchni, miary rolne, średniowiecze Europa



The article explores the role of the mile as a tool in spatial planning in mediaeval settlement processes, considering a possibility that the use of this measure facilitated transfer models of land measuring between far-away territories. It is an introduction and commentary to charts (1–5) which attempt to collect the data on European measures of area applied in farming available in sources and in the literature. The charts serve to verify the hypotheses advanced in the paper. They were compiled in the basis of a comparative analysis of the lans, measures of area applied to arable land (Polish łan, Latin lanus, German Lahn/Hube/Hufe), and their parts. The comparison system adopted in the analysis was that of anthropometric measures (foot, ell, fathom), without converting them to metrical measures. Results were calculated in ells, assuming that an ell could correspond to the antiquity-derived cubitus = 1.5 feet or ulna = 2 feet. The aim was to discover the multiples of smaller measures in larger ones and to establish in what regions they originated (table 2, 4–5).
Approximate values which were not integers were not taken into account in the calculations. The mile, as a measure of length and a unit of land, differed in size depending on the region. It was known as a measure of forest areas in the Kingdom of the Franks under the Merovingian dynasty (in 670 six miles of forest were granted to the Stavelot-Malmedy monastery near Aachen). The Domesday Book mentions the mile as a measure of landed estate on the British Isles in the 11th c. There is a mention from the turn of the 14th c. on the size of the English acre calculated in feet and rods; there is also later information, undated, on the English mile measuring 640 acres. In the Teutonic Order state in Prussia in 1321 an area measuring 2 × 2 miles (i.e. 4 square miles) included 1440 local lans, which were allotted to armoured knights and light cavalrymen.
A comparison of varied measures of area in ells revealed that many units called square miles had been exact multiples of ancient Roman measures, of Frankish measures, and later of documented local measures (table 1, 3). The article also addresses the probability of a shift in the function of the mile in view of the fact that some local square miles (with sides of different length) were divided to 300 units based on the Frankish model of measuring the duodecimal lans (3 × “a hundred”) or to 360 decimal units (3 × “a long hundred” i.e. 120 units). In the Kingdom of the Franks, as a result of the military reform introduced by Charlemagne in 807, the area of the land used that obliged the user to serve in the army was raised from 3 to 4 lans. This may have led to the square mile losing the function of a theoretical calculation norm for a hundred of farms of
3 lans each (the three-fi eld system?) owned by free men obliged to serve in the army, and being turned into a structure, perhaps not identical with the centena, but parallel to the unit that was constituted by a hundred (hared, etc.) in the mediaeval hierarchical territorial organization (a county — a hundred, pagus — locus), which affected huge landed estates. This hypothesis was based on several texts dated to the 9th–13th c. One argument concerns the relic form of centena carbonensis in the Polyptych of Saint Germain des Prés from 820–829, which delineates the location of settlements within the abbeys’ estates. Another argument is the fact that the area of hundred in Worcester, recorded on the British Isles in the 13th c., embraced 300 hides, making an area close to a square mile with a side similar in length to the Scandinavian mile. The record of various smaller land measures within a mile also allows us to trace schemes derived from ancient models measured with decempeda, i.e. a 10-feet rod (centuria, saltus), and mediaeval ones measured with rods of varied length (e.g. aratrum regale). Such schemes were probably based on grids of squares delineated within a mile with the use of later local measures (table 2). Superimposing different grids of squares on the area of a single mile facilitated transferring diverse measure systems. The analysis of lans proves that if a lan is measured in ells the result is also an exact multiple of particular smaller measures of land (table 4 and 5) functioning in different local systems (table 2). Sometimes it is possible to establish that identical sizes of lan units in square ells are recorded in sources concerning territories very distant from one another. Units corresponding exactly to the lans of the Westfalian system, termed Volkshufe (230 400 square ells) i Haegerhufe (460 800 square ells), were recorded not only in northern Germany, but also — under different names — in Scandinavia, eastern Polabia, the Balkans and Polish territories. Units of exactly equivalent  measure in square ells were composed of different numbers of different local units of measure in different
countries. On the basis of the afore-mentioned facts it is possible to hypothesize that models of land measuring, encoded in the concept of the square mile or its fractions, were transferred by waves of immigrants looking for areas to settle on in distant countries.  


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Dunin-Wąsowicz, A. (2016). Mila jako miara obszarów zasiedlanych w Europie przedprzemysłowej. Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej, 64(4), 415–456. Pobrano z



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