A hundred is an administrative division which historically was used to divide a larger region into smaller geographical units. The name is derived from the number hundred. It was a traditional Germanic system described as early as AD 98 by Tacitus (the centeni).
In England a hundred was the division of a shire for administrative, military and judicial purposes under the common law. Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred was supposed to contain approximately one hundred households headed by a hundred-man or hundred eolder. He was responsible for administration, justice, and supplying military troops, as well as leading its forces. The office was not hereditary, but by the 10th century the office was selected from among a few outstanding families.
Hundreds were further divided into tithings, which contained ten households. Below that, the basic unit of land was called the hide, which was enough land to support one family and varied in size from 40 acres (160,000 m²) to 4 square miles (10 km²) depending on the quality and fertility of the land. Compare with township. Above the hundred was the shire under the control of a shire-reeve (or sheriff). Hundreds remained in existence into the late 19th century.
The number of hundreds in each county varied wildly. Leicestershire had six, whereas Devon, nearly three times larger, had thirty-five. Several ancient hundred names give their name to modern local government districts.
In the Scandinavian countries hundreds were used in Sweden (with Finland), Norway and Denmark. In Danish and Norwegian the division was called herred and in Swedish the names härad and hundare was used.
In Sweden Götaland had the division härad while Svealand had hundare, but eventually that division was superceded by introducing the härad in Svealand. Hundreds were not organized in Norrland, i.e. the northern sparsely populated part of Sweden.
The name refer to the number hundred and is example of a common form of division used among Germanic peoples. In Sveland it may once have referred to a hundred men under arms, that were raised and supported by the inhabitants of the hundred.
United States of America
The hundred was also used as a division of the county in some of the English colonies in North America. Carroll County, Maryland, was composed in 1836 by taking the following hundreds from Baltimore County: North Hundred, Pipe Creek Hundred, Delaware Upper Hundred, Delaware Lower Hundred and from Frederick County: Pipe Creek Hundred, Westminster Hundred, Unity Hundred, Burnt House Hundred, Piney Creek Hundred, and Taneytown Hundred.
- This article is partially based on content from the public domain "Owl Edition" of Nordisk familjebok.