Measuring America
Andro Linklater
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy* online

Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy
Andro Linklater
Walker & Co.
288 pages
December 2002
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

previous review next review

What a marvelous piece of history - America through the surveyor's eye view. And how odd that it was written by a Scotsman and Oxford grad, the first person apparently to want to hook up all the boxcars on this particular train.

Measuring America not only reveals how land was measured and property lines established, beginning in George Washington's term of office, but explains why we Americans have never adopted the metric system. Our country is laid out in gridlines using the basic twenty-two foot measurement so necessary for calculating acreage. Even city blocks were counted out in multiples of twenty-two feet. So pervasive was the chain measurement that even the Mormons altered their prophecy in order to adapt the "gunter" system in laying out the streets in Salt Lake City.

In defiance of early pushes towards decimilization, American towns from Ohio westward were measured by the chain system. The American had to own land, and to own it he must know where it lay. Europeans were amazed at how land-hungry Americans were, and at the plain fact that even a peasant in the new world could buy a parcel of land for no more serious reason than to mend a broken heart, or flee from debt in the East by assaying his chances farther westward: "The desire to possess land drew people westward, but it was the survey that made possession legal."

Though America has fought off all attempts to metricize our lives outside the limited realms of science, Andro Linklater feels that a day of reckoning is still at hand, when all of Europe becomes totally metric in 2010:"If it were a simple question of logic, the United States would also be planning to change." But Americans are historically resistant to being dictated to by Europeans -- current events make it very clear that if a European is not for us, he may be against us and be damned. So our antiquated acres and miles, feet and pounds are likely to retain their place in our culture and our concepts - even if it makes the mathematicians and scientists among us a little schizophrenic.

We must thank Mr. Linklater, a European stranger in our midst, for having the vision to produce this fascinating take on our history. The book is juicy with facts, poetry, and leaps from the past into the present and future. No student of Americana should deprive himself of this reading treat.

© 2003 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for Curled Up With a Good Book

buy *Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.