This page has some oddments that do not fit into the other categories on the site. In particular, there are some tables for converting 18th/19th century measurements. At the bottom of the page, there are also some links to other sites.

Weights and Measures

Before the widespread acceptance of the metric system, every country (and even sometimes individual cities within a country) used its own system of weights and measures. These often displayed substantial variations in actual length and weight, despite having similar names. For example, the foot that was in use in most of France was noticeably longer than the English foot, while in some parts of Italy the local foot was actually shorter.

The failure to understand this simple variation in measures has given rise to any number of misconceptions. A quite common one is to assume that Frenchmen were shorter than they actually were. A recent book on Napoleon, for example, states that Wellington was six inches taller, because he stood 5ft 9ins, and Napoleon 5ft 3ins. In fact, the difference was nothing of the sort, as 5ft 3ins in French measure equates to 5ft 7ins in English measure. This is not very different from the height of 5ft 6.5ins (in his stockinged feet) which Vincent Cronin gives for Napoleon on page 179 of his biography of him. However, Bouvier is a little more conservative in his Bonaparte en Italie, where he states in a footnote on page 41 that Napoleon stood exactly 1m 67cm 4mm (5ft 6ins).

There is a valuable section on weights and measures in Philip Haythornthwaite's excellent work The Napoleonic Source Book, Cassell & Co, London, 1990. A highly specialised work is: Zupko, R. E. Italian Weights and Measures from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, 1981. This book is unlikely to be widely available, and it may be necessary to go to a good university library to find a copy.

Go to tables for: Linear Measure; Weights; French Money

Linear Measure

Go to the table for: English measures, Austrian, Italian

French measures

12 points = 1 line (ligne)
12 lines = 1 inch (pouce)
12 inches = 1 foot (pied)
2.5 feet = 1 simple pace (pas)
5 feet = 1 "geometrical" pace
6 feet = 1 toise

Conversions of French measures

1 league = 2,000 toises or 2,400 paces
1 mile (mille de Poste or de Paris)
originally = 1,000 toises (1,949.04 m)
later = 1,100 toises (2,143.94 m)
1 Fr inch = 2.706995267 cms (1.065746168 Eng ins)
1 Fr foot = 32.4839432 cms (1.065746168 Eng feet)
1 toise = 1.9490365912 m (6.394477008 Eng feet)

(A transitional measure was used to prepare for the introduction of the metric system [decreed 11 Feb 1812] in which the toise equalled 2 metres. The conversions of the toise are those given in Berthelot, P.-E.-M. and others. La grande encyclopédie, 1887-1902.)

1 Paris league = 3.933 kms (2.443919717 English miles)
1 Common league = 4.444 kms
1 Geographical league = 6.348 kms
1 Kilometric league = 4 kms


English measure

3 miles = 1 league
1 ft = 0.305 m
1 yd = 0.914 m
1 m = 1.094 yds
0.305 m = 1 ft


Austrian measure

1 Vienna foot (Fuss, or Schuh) = 0.31 m. (See Der Grosse Brockhaus, 1928, vol 6, p. 698.)
1 Klafter (of 6 feet) = 1.8968 m. (See Der Grosse Brockhaus, 1928, vol 10, p. 189.)


Italian measure

English ft = 1
Mantuan ft = 1.569
Neapolitan ft = 0.861
Venetian ft = 1.153
Venetian mile = 1,738.67 m
Lombard mile = 1,784.81 m
Piedmontese mile = 2,466.08 m



1 pound = n grammes
France (livre of 2 marcs, of 8 onces, of 8 gros, of 3 deniers) = 489.506
Austria (Pfund of 32 Lot, of 4 Quentchen, of 4 Sechzehten or Pfennigen) = 560.06
Portugal (libra of 4 quartos, of 4 onças, of 4 octava) = 460.093
Rome (libbra of 12 once) = 339.073
Russia (pound of 96 solotniki, of 96 doli) = 409.512
Spain (libra of 16 onza) = 460.093
Sweden (Skalpund) = 425.07

Individual Cities/Regions

Aix-la-Chapelle = 467
Augsburg = 560
Baden = 500
Barcelona = 416
Berlin = 467.7
Bohemia = 514
Brunswick = 467.5
Brussels = 467.7
Copenhagen = 499.4
Florence = 339.55
Frankfurt am Main = 505.3 or 467.9
Genoa = 348.45
Hanover = 489.6
Leipzig = 467.5 (among others)
Lisbon = 459
Livorno = 339.55
Madrid = 460
Mantua = 315.6
Milan = 326.8
Moscow = 409.4
Munich = 560
Naples = 891
Poland = 405.5
Saragossa = 350
Saxony = 467.5
Stuttgart = 467.8
Tyrol = 562.6
Venice = 477.05

The situation with regard to weights could be remarkably complicated. In Dresden, for example, there were various different "pounds" in use. There was one of 467.5 grammes, one for the mines of 451.1g, another for steel of 435.8g, and another for meat of 504.2g. The metric system (which was widely adopted in Germany in the 1850s) must have been very welcome to some.

Information taken from: Berthelot, P.-E.-M. and others. La grande encyclopédie, 1887-1902, vol 22, p. 369; and Der Grosse Brockhaus, 1928, vol 14, p. 472


French Money

1 Fr livre = 0.987 Fr francs

Please note that it is extremely difficult to reconstruct past exchange rates between different currencies. It is also notoriously difficult to give any idea of the value of a certain sum of money at a particular time in the past. At the moment of writing, the author has no time to dedicate to such a complex issue.


Links to Other Sites

Napoleon.org   Probably the most comprehensive and serious site dedicated to Napoleon. Based in France, and supported by some important scholars.
The International Napoleonic Society   The site of one of the most prominent associations dedicated to the study of Napoleon and his times.
The Napoleon Series   Site with a vast quantity of material, much of it for real enthusiasts.

Amur leopards

A personal interest, and nothing to do with history.

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They are perhaps the most endangered animals in the world -- there are only about 30 left in the wild. They desperately need help from humankind. See www.amur-leopard.org.

Unless otherwise credited, original text, translations and photographs on this site are ©2001 Martin Boycott-Brown

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