Author Topic: Weights  (Read 187 times)

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Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2019, 08:44:18 AM »
Sorry to bang on about the Egyptians, but I'm puzzled and curious.

Well - the direction of this discussion is partly my fault - in eliding some issues in my initial posting.  But still, I think it is illuminating in a negative way.

On the matter itself, I tested this with my wife.  She follows "i-JIP-shun" but agrees I stress all syllables equally.  (Perhaps that is why French people always fall about laughing when I try to speak French?)

The deeper problem I see is that we diverted into this side issue.  The way the linguistic turn that started in 20th century philosophy is spreading like a contagion throughout both academic and popular culture.  Destroying objectivity in its wake. Viz:

1)  In 1967 the authoritative understanding of the history of troy weight derived from objects themselves – old coins and weights.  By 2004 that understanding was being entirely rejected on the basis of an incredibly stupid argument about the word itself.  More details here

(PDF) On Resigning from the Royal Numismatic Society, Robert Tye | Robert Tye -

2)  Peter took this thread in an interesting direction – posing objective criticism that grocers were not bankers. But that contention does not really get us past the dictionary definition of the two words.

If we look at the detailed work done by economic historians, I judge we find that grocers were exactly the people who fed credit into retail consumption in the medieval and early modern periods.  That really only went into reverse for a brief window of time in the UK, from the truck acts of 1831 to their abolition by Thatcher within her Employment acts.  Card companies and the banks increasingly provide very similar forms of credit for consumption that shops did prior to the enforcement of the 1831 act (which was not really enforced until about 1880 in practice).

We get to understand such things by delving into the account books of medieval and early modern shop keepers – which was done in detail in English primarily by folk at Universities in the North of England in the later 20th century.  That work seems now to have ceased completely.  When I tried to track down a guy who worked on it at Manchester, I recall I found found that

a)  he himself was retired

b)  everyone who would have known him no longer had a contract, because

c)  The Economic History department had been shut, in favour of “Business Studies”

Ten times as many people get degrees, but fewer study the facts.

I judge Shakespeare made Macbeth the archetypal tyrant when he gave him the words:

“let the frame of things disjoint”

Seems to me that is exactly what is going on in our modern failure to understand objective historical weight standards. And here - we get side tracked into issues about words......

Akbar told the Jesuit who interviewed him that the only requirement he made of states that joined his empire was - that they used his weight standards, (established in line with long tradition).

Rob T

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Weights
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2019, 11:31:29 AM »
2)  Peter took this thread in an interesting direction – posing objective criticism that grocers were not bankers.

No, that's not what I said (see reply #8). It is your interpretation of what I said (see reply #10). I do not have the time and energy to fight every misrepresentation of my words, so don't interpret silence as acquiescence. In fact, your argument supported what I said. Pepper (spices), tobacco, tea and coffee traders are long range merchants. There are some 18th century tokens that show these long range merchants had shops in Britain (e.g. the East India House token from Manchester), but to call them "grocers" because they had shops and ignore that they had ships does not do them justice.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2019, 12:27:00 PM »
to call them "grocers" because they had shops and ignore that they had ships does not do them justice.

Afraid this is not in general the case.  You overlooked the hierarchical nature of the set up which I drew attention to at the outset

By "grocers" I meant shopkeeping members of the grocers guild etc – entered by apprenticeship. 

People who "had ships" would be members of a Merchant Adventurers Company.  They normally would be gentlemen of independent wealth

As a general rule one could not be both – not least since - it was generally against company and guild rules for wholesalers to retail.

So basically – in the general case - the big companies and wholesalers controlled the credit of the individual shops, and the individual shops controlled the credit of consumers.  As I was implying in the first place.  Credit was drip fed through society from the top – but controlled by the Company and Guild rules.  It was the local shop who most times figured out your “credit rating” as a consumer.

Rob T

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2019, 10:29:04 AM »
A cross posting here - in can case anyone can assist - concering questions about  Roman period metrological text...........

I wrote

Hello XXX,

That is fascinating and important.  The way I would think about it is that the Late Roman ounce was being viewed at 144 carats.

The logical way for that to arise would be in connection with the success of the solidus denomination, in itself defining subsequent metrology.  For most people a minty solidus would be the definition of 24 carats, and thus 6 minty solidi the definition of an ounce.

Seems to fit with the chronology you suggest?  Do you agree?

Further to this – have you ever seem reference to grains or smaller weights in Roman period text?  (Their carat is c. 0.189g!)

As far as I can figure it – the Babylonians were working down to the half grain - 0.046g, (a quarter that size), deep into pre-history.

By about 1 AD the Hindus were working in a theoretical metrology that approached molecular size at the bottom end!  At a practical level, they were figuring in “white mustard seeds” which were about 0.0024g  (about 80 times smaller)

And by about 200 BC Chinese at a practical level were working down a to millet seed defined at c. 0.006g. (about 30 times smaller)

This seems just plain weird to me – unless there is Roman text I never saw?

Odd too that Skinner very plausibly made the Egyptian beqa 128 grains – but never produced anything like corroboration.

Rob T