What is a Hundred?
And no, that’s not an existential question. 🙂
Isn’t this a grand old map? Regardless of the accuracy or original purpose of the map, I think it has great visual appeal. The typography, the lines, the colors, it’s all fascinating. But if you look a little closer, you may start to notice some terms that seem unusual. Hundred? What is a hundred, other than the number between 99 and 101? And why can it be found all over these old maps?
A Hundred is a historical term for a geographical area that was smaller than a shire (which is somewhat like a County in the States), and was used mostly for administrative purposes. Some people think that the term comes from the amount of land needed to provide for 100 families, or alternatively the amount of land it took to house enough families who could provide 100 men-at-arms in time of war. No one seems to be really sure, but the term was quite common throughout the middle ages.
Interestingly, the term was imported to the colonies, and was used in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania up until the 1960s. Apparently, you can still find some real estate listings describing which “hundred” a certain house on, even though that distinction means nothing.