on 22 August 2003
The title of this book is a little bit mis-leading in that the book is about much more than just how land in America was measured and laid out. It really is also a history of how weights and measures were established and about the people who tried and succeeded in setting standards.
There is a fascinating discussion on how weights and measures are determined, and some insights into the people who in some cases devoted their lives to the cause of measuring things accurately.
In purchasing this book I expected more about how borders between the States were determined both in USA and Canada. Some reference is made to border disputes early on between the original 13 colonies, but what about middle and west of America? How were States and Provinces established - this is missing from the book.
It is an interesting book, but I'm sure there are better accounts of how measures were created and established - and I felt that a history of this process was simply filling out the book.
The book is well written and easy to read, and I'd recommend it to the amateur geographer or historian.
on 21 January 2003
In this fascinating book, author Andro Linklater examines how the measuring of land developed, and how the thought-forms that it gave rise to shaped the subsequent development of the United States. You see, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the English aristocracy began enclosing their land, and changing how it was used. As such, it became necessary to measure the land accurately for the owner. And when England began to plant colonies in the New World, these colonists began to see the land not as something belonging to the Crown or the community, but as individual kingdoms, where the owner was sovereign. This gave rise to a uniquely American way of looking at land and the individual.
I don't doubt that the summary above will suggest that this book is a dull and boring analysis of an unimportant historical detail, but this is hardly the case. Mr. Linklater succeeds is writing a fascinating history, that also makes a very persuasive case for his view of history. Though it is a bit long, and begins to drag towards the end, I did enjoy reading this book, and highly recommend it. In particular, I was astonished to read about the development of the metric system, how the United States was nearly the first country to implement it (after France, of course), and what happened.