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Measuring America

Andro Linklater



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HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
08 August 2003
The epic story of how the gigantic land of America acquired its unique shape across 3000 miles of territory, and how the largest land survey in history paved the way both for a colossal sale of property and for the embedding of democracy and the spirit of independence in the psyche of Americans.

The sheer scale of it makes the measuring of America extraordinary. Beginning in 1785, it became the largest land survey in history stretching from the Ohio river to the Pacific coast and from Lake Erie to the Mexican border. It prepared the ground for the sale of almost two billion acres, and shaped landscapes and cities across the US more drastically than any event since the last ice age.

Before the survey could begin, there had to be agreement about what kind of measurement should be used. What made the 18th-century debate so critical was the revolution taking place in Western thought as objective, scientific reasoning challenged the traditional, subjective view of the world. A battle began between those (like the British) supporting a centuries-old organic form of measurement (ounces and pounds, yards and acres) and the modernizers, like Thomas Jefferson, who backed a system based on scientific observation.

The effects of the measuring of America on the landscape and people (native and immigrant) were huge and long-lasting; the story itself an exotic blend of narrative history and popular science
By:   Andro Linklater
Imprint:   HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   ePub edition
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 20mm
Weight:   269g
ISBN:   9780007108886
ISBN 10:   0007108885
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   08 August 2003
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Andro Linklater has been a writer for twenty years. He is the author of The Black Watch (with his father, Eric Linklater); Charlotte Despard: A Life; Compton Mackenzie: A Life (winner of the Scottish Arts Council Biography of the Year Award); Wild People: Travels with Borneo's Head Hunters; and The Code of Love (Weidenfeld 2000).

Reviews for Measuring America

In Measuring America Linklaker describes the effects that scientific developments in the 17th and 18th centuries had on the process of land acquisition in America. He also recounts the Americans' attempts to develop a regulated set of weights and measures. They believed that this would bring about a fairer, more democratic society: in Europe it was the landowners and aristocrats who owned the 'standard' sets of weights, and they would quite frequently use large weights for buying and small weights for selling. Indeed, practices of this kind had been one of the major grievances that sparked off the French Revolution. It is to Linklaker's credit that his book is more interesting that this premise might suggest. If you are interested in the history of measurement or the early history of the USA then you will find that Linklaker writes clearly and entertainingly, and with an obvious interest in his subject. An unusual but successful work. (Kirkus UK)

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