Oxford History: The Hundreds

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What is a Hundred?

Definition of a Hundred (from Oxford English Dictionary):

In England (and subseq. in Ireland): A subdivision of a county or shire, having its own court; also formerly applied to the court itself.

Chiltern Hundreds: see CHILTERN.

Most of the English counties were divided into hundreds; but in some counties wapentakes, and in others wards, appear as divisions of a similar kind. The origin of the division into hundreds, which appears already in OE times, is exceedingly obscure, and very diverse opinions have been given as to its origin.

  • ’It has been regarded as denoting simply a division of a hundred hides of land; as the district which furnished a hundred warriors to the host; as representing the original settlement of the hundred warriors; or as composed of a hundred hides, each of which furnished a single warrior’ (Stubbs Const. Hist. I. v. §45).
  • ’It is certain that in some instances the hundred was deemed to contain exactly 100 hides of land’ (F. W. Maitland).

The hundred, OHG. (Alemannisch) huntari, huntre, was a subdivision of the gau in Ancient Germany; but connexion between this and the English hundred is not clearly made out.


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Map showing 19C hundreds

© Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 10 September, 2012

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