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Gjest Vidar Larsen

[#6408] Hud and Land-tax

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Gjest Vidar Larsen

The use of Hud (Hide in English) is according to many Bygdebøker a common measure of Land-tax (Skyld) in part of Norway from 1500 onwards. This, to an amateur historian like myself, appears to have some sort of connection to the amount a farm could produce. However, recently I came across the following footnote in a translation of an Old English manuscript which was giving the size of an island as five hides. The footnote stated " A hide (hid) was originally as much land as would support one family". The manuscript was copied around 1100 from earlier sources and translated from Old English by a Professor of Medieval Studies, thus the translation is most likely correct. As Old English was reasonable close to Old Norse could the use of hud as a farm measure have the same origin?mvh Vidar

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Gjest Knut Bryn

Interesting question, Vidar! Can you tell us what part of Britain this text is dealing with, - Scotland, Northern England or Southern England?So to the statement that "a hide (hid) was originally as much land as would support one family". Perhaps this can be understood several ways, but one understanding might be that the unit hide originally was so that a farm of one hide could feed a mean family. If this is right, don't you think that the tax for such a farm in the actual region might have been payed with one animal (cow) skin? Consulting Webster's dictionary I found that one meaning of hide is the skin of an animal whether raw or dressed - used especially of large heavy skins.If this is the right explanation, the Norwegian hud and the English hide may very well have the same origin both philologically and functionally.

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Gjest Vidar Larsen

Hi KnutIn modern usage hide in English has the same meaning as hud in Norwegian, ie skin of an animal. My interpretation of the footnote was that the Old English ‘hide' was a measure of farm size, ie as you indicated one that could support the average family. This has also been verified by a large and reputable dictionary which has this additional definition of hide; "an obsolete British unit of land measure varying in magnitude from about 60 to 120 acres". The dictionary indicates that this is derived from Old English. (1 acre = aprox 4050 square m).The manuscript that was translated was the Peterborough manuscript (E) of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles which deals with the ‘history' of the Anglo-Saxon people (in South England) up to around 1100-1200, although the island in question was Iona in Scotland where St Columba established his abbey late 500 AD.

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