hundred

 

For the hundred as a unit of mass, see hundredweight

Contents

1. In England, hundred as a unit of count

= 100

= 120

other

2. In Bangladesh, a unit of count

3. hundred as a unit of land area, (political rather than geometric)

The long hundred

The long hundred, a unit of count = 120, appears to have arisen out of an ancient Germanic way of counting, one which is echoed in modern English. The “teen” suffix, as in four-teen, six-teen, etc, is not applied to one plus ten or two plus ten (they aren't one-teen and two-teen). Eleven and twelve are treated the same way as the first ten numerals; the break is after twelve, not ten. Similarly counting by decades ended with twelve × 10, 120, not 100.

Note that this is not a duodecimal numeric system. Real base-12 numeration requires two extra numerals, one for eleven and another for twelve, just as the hexadecimal, base-16 system used with computers requires 6 extra characters, namely A, B, C, D, E and F. In a true base-12 system, “100” would mean 144, not 120.

Never used for money or dates.

The development that appears to have led to the disappearance of the long hundred was the replacement of the medieval counting table by paper-and-pencil methods of calculating.

Julian Goodare.
The long hundred in medieval and early modern Scotland.
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 123, pages 395-418 (1993).

Includes a chart showing, by century, what commodities the long hundred was used for.

W. H. Stevenson.
The long hundred and its use in England.
Archaeological Review, vol 4, no, 5, pages 313-317 (December 1889).

examples

This reckoning of one hundred as six score still holds good (or did to my knowledge ten years ago) in Leighton Buzzard, Beds. If one ordered there 100 plants, for example, one received, and also had to pay for, 120: a hundred being always reckoned as six twenties. If one required simply 100, it was necessary to order five score.

So also here in Cardigan and around, taking eggs, for example, the dealer picking up three eggs in each hand, reckons that twenty times this makes one hundred.

Emily M. Pritchard (writing on 21 July 1906).
Archaeologia Cambrensis. 6th series, vol. 6, page 352.

1

In English, a unit of count, now of course = 100, but especially before the 18th century, often = 120.  Sometimes, but not always, the former was called the small hundred and the latter the long hundred. Sometimes 120 was called the small hundred and 2880 the great hundred.  Which hundred was meant could often be told only by knowing which hundred was traditionally used with the commodity being counted.  See the discussion by commodity below.

The long hundred comes from the Teutonic Hundert, which = 120, and reached the British Isles through the Teutonic invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries.

Symbol, C (from the Latin), but C. wt. was once the symbol for the British hundredweight, 112 pounds.

Commodities for Which the Hundred = 100
Commodity Source
Burrs for millstones the hundred conteyning five score

Rates of Merchandizes (1660).

Coins, e.g., shillings. Tractatus de Ponderibus et mensuris. (circa 1250)
Drinking glasses Scotch and French drinking glasses the hundred cont 5 score

“A Subsidy granted to the King of Tonnage and Poundage and other summes of Money payable upon Merchandize Exported and Imported.”
A statute from the 12th year of Charles II, 1660. The selection is from the Rates of Merchandizes, which is not part of the statute proper but developed from it. Both are printed in:
Statutes of the Realm, Volume 5: 1628-80, John Raithby, editor.
London: 1819. Page 191

Gunpowder The hundred weight of gunpowder is but five skore pounds.
Iron Tractatus de Ponderibus et mensuris. (circa 1250)
Skins

“Coney, Kid, Lambe Budge, Catt, etc.: 5 Skore to the hundred.”

MS Harl. 5769 (1682)

 

Commodities for Which the Hundred = 120
Commodity Source
Certain types of pieces of wood, including bowstaves, oars, staves for hogsheads Bow staves the hundred conteyning six score staves.
Eggs Eggs the hundred conteyning six score

“A Subsidy granted to the King of Tonnage and Poundage and other summes of Money payable upon Merchandize Exported and Imported.”
A statute from the 12th year of Charles II, 1660. The selection is from the Rates of Merchandizes, which is not part of the statute proper but developed from it. Both are printed in:
Statutes of the Realm, Volume 5: 1628-80, John Raithby, editor.
London: 1819. Page 189.

Skins  
Canvas and linen cloth

“Item a Hundred of Canvass, and Linen cloth consisteth of One hundred Ells [or yards], and every hundred containeth Six Score.”

Tractatus de Ponderibus et Mensuris. (circa 1250)

"The hundred of canvas and of lynnen clothe is and contenith 120 to the hundrid."

Hall c 1590

Pins and nails

"Also all other headed things, as nailes, pins, &c. are sold six score to the hundred."

Michael Dalton.
The Countrey Justice.
London, 1635.

Fish (see also herring, below)

"Notes of the 100 of fish
"Codd, lynge, haberden, lob or stockfishe, to the hundrid is allowyd–120 to the 100."

MS Reg. 18 C. XX (1590–1620)

Herring.
See also cade, mease.

“But a Last of Herrings containeth ten thousand, and every Thousand containeth Ten hundred, and every Hundred six score.“

Tractatus de Ponderibus et Mensuris. (circa 1250)

“4. Ordered that throughout the Cinque Ports 'hearyng shulde be solde by tale vj score to the hundreth' other 'tale fyshe', oysters and 'wylkes' to be sold at the same rate on pain of 40s. A mayor or bailiff is to have power to levy such fine on any person 'in contrary to this Acte doyinge'. 'Be it remembered that this clause of the said penaltye was condescended and agreed in the forme aforsayde by the whole Brodhyll.'”

Felix Hull, editor.
A Calendar of the White and Black Books of the Cinque Ports, 1432 – 1955.
Historical Manuscripts Commission JP 5.
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1966.

And the Hundred of Herring shall be accounted by six Score, and the Last by ten Thousand.

31 Edward III Statute 2, Chapter 2. (1357)
Statutes of the Realm, vol I, page 354.

A meeting of the Brodhyll on 5 April 1440.

“Hearings are sold freshe by the meise, which is five hundred, eche hundred contayning vj xx.”

George Owen of Henllys, lord of Kemes [1552–1613].
Henry Owen, editor.
The Description of Penbrokshire.
London, C. J. Clark, 1892–1906
Page 13. 

 

Commodities for Which the Hundred Was Neither 100 Nor 120
Quantity Commodity Source
106 In Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, a hundred of sheep or lambs was (sometimes) 106. Appendix A of the Second Commissioners' Report, 1820.
124 Ling, cod, haberdine

“Also saltfyssche is sold in some place aftre vixx the C; but the rule of Doggermen ys to sell [vi]xx and iiij fysschys for a C.”

MS Cotton, Vesp. E. IX (15th century).

Doggermen are fishers of the Dogger Bank, in the North Sea about 60 miles east of England. In modern English: "Also salt fish is sold in some places at six score to the hundred, but the rule of the doggermen is to sell six score and 4 fish for a hundred."

160 "Hard fish", that is, dried fish

"A Hundred of Hard Fish is Eight Score."

Tractatus de Ponderibus et Mensuris. (circa 1250)

225 Onions and garlic

"15 ropes and every rope each with 15 heads."

Tractatus de Ponderibus et Mensuris. (circa 1250)

Also:

Edward Hatton.
Arithmetick; or, the Ground of Arts: Teaching that Science, both in Whole Numbers and Fractions.
London, 1699.

The great hundred = 2880

examples

Clapholt or Clapboord
the small hundred cont. 6 [sic] score boords               xv s.
the Ring cont. two small hundred                             j li. x s.
the great hundred conteyning. xxiiij small hundred    xviij li.

“A Subsidy granted to the King of Tonnage and Poundage and other summes of Money payable upon Merchandize Exported and Imported.”
A statute from the 12th year of Charles II, 1660. The selection is from the Rates of Merchandizes, which is not part of the statute proper but developed from it. Both are printed in:
Statutes of the Realm, Volume 5: 1628-80, John Raithby, editor.
London: 1819. Page 186.
That the “small hundred” in this example is really 120 and not 100 is shown by another entry for clapboords in the same list (page 185), which reads “Boords vocat...Clapbords the hundred cont cxx”. So in this context “small” is used to distinguish the long hundred from a much larger hundred.

Sources

Jens Ulff-Møller.
The Use of an Archaic British-Scandinavian Counting System.
in
Sushil Chaudhuri and Markus A. Denzel, editors.
Cashless Payments and Transactions from the Antiquity to 1914.
Volume 114 of Beitrage Zur Wirtschafts- Und Sozialgeschichte.
Proceedings of an international conference.
Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GmbH (2008).

2

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, 20th century, a unit of count for mangoes, = 112.

In Dinajpur, Bangladesh, 20th century, a unit of count for betel leaf, = 64.

M Sadrul Amin. Banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/A_0083.htm (Accessed 25 April 2006).

3

In England and North America, a political subdivision of the shire or county, which at times may also have been a unit of land area.

The term is thought by many to have originated as a traditional subdivision of Teutonic armies, which Tacitus, writing around 100 ad, describes: 

In universum aestimanti plus penes peditem roboris; eoque mixti proeliantur, apta et congruente ad equestrem pugnam velocitate peditum, quos ex omni iuventute delectos ante aciem locant. definitur et numerus: centini ex singulis pagis sunt, idque ipsum inter suos vocantur, et quod primo numeros fuit, iam nomen et honor est.

On a broad view there is more strength in their infantry, and accordingly cavalry and infantry fight in one body, the swift-footed infantryman, whom they pick out of the whole body of warriors and place in front of the line, being well-adapted and suitable for cavalry battles. The number of these men is fixed – one hundred from each canton: and among themselves this, “the Hundred,” is the precise name they use; what was once a number only has become a title and a distinction.1

In the 5 and 6th centuries Teutonic peoples invaded England. Digby describes the probable origin of the term “hundred” as a territorial entity.

There is no direct evidence as to the mode in which the conquered portions of the territory were colonized by invaders. Materials for conjectures more or less probable are afforded by the records of similar proceedings in the case of other Teutonic and Scandinavian conquests, and by the nomenclature and legal and other phenomena which are found existing in later times. It must be borne in mind that the invaders, though still retaining many habits derived from ancient Teutonic customs, had attained to a certain degree of political organization at the time of the invasion. The body of invaders is a regular army led by a chief, and divided in ”hundreds” of warriors, who are united by a bond of real or supposed kinship, and probably come from neighboring homes.

There can be little doubt that regard was paid to this division of the host into hundreds in the distribution of the conquered territory. It is impossible to trace the exact links of connexion between the hundred of warriors who constituted the sub-divisions of the Teutonic army and the territorial hundred of later times; there can however be no question that the two are connected, and the most plausible conjecture seems to be that a definite area of territory, though probably not of uniform size, was in the original process of colonization assigned to each hundred, that the name then gradually ceased to have a personal, and began to acquire a territorial signification, that it was adopted as the most important division for fiscal and judicial purposes, and that, as the whole country became colonized and brought under as uniform system of organization, the boundaries of isolated hundreds would be extended until they touched each other, and thus the present division of the county into hundreds, or districts of the same kind but bearing different names, was effected.2

Traditionally, King Alfred is supposed to have divided England into counties, and the counties into hundreds.

It cannot be determined without question what is the historical connexion between the system of the Hundred, as exemplified in the hundred warriors and the hundred counselors of the Germania, and the later institution of police organization and territorial division known under this name in England. The existence of a territorial subdivision intermediate between the vicus or township and the shire or under-kingdom, such as is known in various parts of England in the present day as the hundred, the wapontake, the lathe, or the rape, may be regarded as proved by numerous passage in Bede and the Chronicles; and this subdivision may be regarded as answering roughly to the pagus of Tacitus or the gau of Germany. But it is not equally clear when, how, or why the name of “hundred” was first applied in the majority of the counties to this subdivision. It is sometimes stated that the hundred is a primitive subdivision consisting a a hundred hides of land, or apportioned to a hundred families: the great objection to which is the impossibility of reconciling the historical hundreds with any such computation. Another theory regards the use of the term as much more modern, and as arising from the police arrangement exemplified in the following document [a.d. 959-975. Edgar. This is the ordinance how the hundred shall be held...], and in two much earlier ones of Childebert and Clothaire, of the year 595, [Decretio Childeberti regis; (Baluz. i. 14)  Cap. IX-XII.   Decretio Clotharii II, a.d. 595] which exist among the Capitularies of the Frank kings. Upon this theory the 'hundred' was originally the association of a hundred persons for the conservation of peace and execution of law, parallel with the later institution of the tithing or association of ten freemen for a similar purpose. In process of time, the name of 'hundred' would naturally extend to the territory protected by this association, as the tithing itself became, in later times and in certain districts, a local division. This theory is more probable than the former, but requires to be adjusted in point of date and locality. We are not to regard the ordinance of Childebert and Clothaire, or this of Edgar, as the institution of an entirely new organization, and as creating the district as well as the police system from which it took its name. It would be as difficult to prove any historical connexion between the decrees of 595 and the ordinance of Edgar, as it would to trace either directly to the 'centeni' of the Germania. But it is extremely probable that both the legislators utilized an existing machinery which was originally and closely allied to the centeni of Tacitus. There are thus three points: the existence of the subdivision of the shire, which is unquestionable; the existence of the machinery of the hundred for police purposes, which emerges in these ordinances, but which may fairly be presumed to be traceable to the analogy of the primitive usage, and which may have been customary for ages, during which there is no direct record of it; and, thirdly, the application of the personal name and organization of the hundred to the already existing territorial division, which occurs in Germany as well as in England. The last thus viewed becomes of minor importance; as the special names applied to the particular hundreds must in most cases have existed prior to the application. The hundred-court was the ordinary court of justice among the Franks and bore the name of mallus. The law of Childebert and Clothaire recognizes the existence of the territorial hundred even whilst instituting a new measure of police. The law of Edgar has a very much wider operation, regulating the practice of the hundred-court in other respects. The coincidence in the wording of the two documents is remarkable, rather as exhibiting the traces of ancient common institutions than as proving any direct connexion.3

The Hundred in North America

The hundred was also used as a division of the county in some of the English colonies in North America: Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Maine.4 In the early 1600's Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the proprietor of Maine (about a sixth of the extent of the present state), divided it into 8 counties and the counties into “16 several hundreds.” Minutes of a meeting of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council in 1682 speak of “Power to Divide the said Countrey, and Islands, into Townes, Hundreds and Counties.” A Virginia ordinance of 24 July 1621 calls for two burgesses from each hundred. Maryland is said to have abolished its hundreds by an act of the Assembly in 1824, but in 1836 Carroll County, Maryland, was formed by taking hundreds from Baltimore County (North Hundred, Pipe Creek Hundred, Delaware Upper Hundred, Delaware Lower Hundred) and Frederick County (Pipe Creek Hundred, Westminster Hundred, Unity Hundred, Burnt House Hundred, Piney Creek Hundred, and Taneytown Hundred).

Hundreds now survive only in Delaware, though they have no political significance.

 

1. Publius Cornelius Tacitus.
Germania.
In The Dialogs of Publius Cornelius Tactitus.
Sir William Peterson, translator.
(Loeb Library edition.)
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1914.

Chapter 6. [back]

2. Kenelm Edward Digby and William Montagu Harrison.
An Introduction to the History of the Law of Real Property. (5th edition)
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897. [back]

3. William Stubbs.
Select Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Edward the First. (Sixth edition)
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888.

Page 68. [back]

4. Frederic G. Cassidy, Chief Editor, and Joan Houston Hall, Associate Editor.
Dictionary of American Regional English. Volume 2.
Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1991.

Page 1157.

Resources

Olof Sigfrid Arngart.
The English Hundred-Names.
Lund: Printed by H. Ohlsson, 1934. Another edition? C. W. K. Cleerup, [1939].

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