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Measuring America: How the United States Was Shaped By the Greatest Land Sale in History Paperback – September 30, 2003
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"What's great about history, when done well, is how even the most familiar topics, from the American Revolution to WWII, can be revisited again and again, not just to retell stories but to offer a fresh perspective. That is what Andro Linklater does in Measuring America." —USA Today
"Remarkable...Linklater traces with unusual elegance and a keen wit the epic story of measuring our nation, charting the process by which, with each length of the surveyor's chain, new states were literally bought into being." —Los Angeles Times
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Top Customer Reviews
The book's primary thrust is the history leading to the fact that we do not normally use the metric system in the U. S. I must say that it makes a good case for an idea that I'd never run across before: that this is primarily because the French, in devising the definition of the meter, departed from an idea that many people, including Thomas Jefferson, thought would give the most internationally reproducible standard. Reading this book, it really seems he has his facts right, and his argument is convincing.
I found that the book clarified a number of points that I have wondered about.
One negative thing is that his appendix in the end has some (probably typographical) errors: one table shows 101, 102, etc. for what slould really be 10 with exponents 1, 2, etc.) and in several other tables, "grains" becomes "gains."
The book describes the mapping of the other states besides the original 13 and how this process showed a precision and efficiency that was unique to America. A look at the US map shows that the original 13 states have highly irregular borders. But as one looks west, state borders become straighter, cleaner, and smoother. Essentially, the original 13 states had their border decided after people moved in and created towns, farms, and villages. This process was reversed to various degrees in the other states, where borders were layed out first to maximize the ease by which the land could be subdivided for sale. Such a process helped America spread westward with ease, speed, and minimal legal hassles and conflicts between neighbors.
The book covers all the major figures involved in this process, from Presidents and other government officials making the decisions, to the cartographers in the wild who drew out the lines in the forests, praries, and fields. All told, this is a good book to read with a text easy enough for most high school students. It should be required reading in high school history classes.
In one book, the author traces how land was parceled out, surveyed, sold, and settled as the US moved west. It's fascinating stuff, and probably has more do with our history than the obvious and sometimes boring schoolbook emphasis on treaties, battles, and political leaders.
The overall picture it paints is one of a huge land grab, with speculation playing a very large role. It reminds us that the current economic situation we find ourselves in has roots that go back far, and that our politicians (starting with Washington, Jefferson, et al.) have been very closely involved every step of the way.
In the other book, the author talks about measurement systems. Yes, the two do have some interplay, but the author seems to get quite carried away with the latter, devoting large chunks to the metric system, weights, and other topics that really have very little to do with the overall theme. If you find that interesting, great. If not, just skip over it, like I did.
The author is an excellent writer, by the way. He seems to make even the most boring stuff interesting. There did seem to be a little too much of a reliance on individual characters though. He also had some very interesting theories - differences in measurement in the North and South, and between the British and French and Spanish - but I do wish some of these had been developed more.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Husband had read a friends copy ...is happy to have his own....Published 10 months ago by Tamaris Dolton
Historians, surveyors, sociologists, math majors, city planners, and many other readers will enjoy this well-written book about measurement as a social construct and the... Read more
I love the fact that America was surveyed by thousands of engineers and divided into 6 mile squares and 160 acre farms and that democracy that we know came from a perfectly square... Read morePublished on December 13, 2013 by Lebowski
One of the sharpest physics professors I've ever known loved quoting this material so much, that I had to pick it up and see what all it had to offer. Read morePublished on December 5, 2013 by Friendly Folk
Not a page turner, but once this book grabs you, you won't want to put it down. The story that this book tells is fascinating and the evidence of how America as measured can be... Read morePublished on December 1, 2013 by David C
Measuring America is a history written about the exploration, measuring, and
dividing the land in America. Read more
I read this book a year ago and I still tell people about it. It's complicated, heavy stuff, and it can be very tedious to read all the details, but it's amazing how much I... Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by AKHI Jeni