The Making of Measure and the Promise of Sameness

The Making of Measure and the Promise of Sameness

Emanuele Lugli

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226612492

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Starting in the late twelfth century, the governments of Italy’s newly-formed city-republics rejected imperial measurement standards and created new local ones, displaying them in their main squares. This book argues that this deceptively simple gesture—almost entirely overlooked by historians—triggered a series of revolutionary practices that not only redefined the cultural landscape of medieval and early modern Italy, but also laid the foundations of today’s ideas about precision, reproducibility, and truth. This book is thus both a sociopolitical history of a crucial component of medieval material culture, and a quest for the foundations of objectivity. By looking at the emergence of measurement standards—the ways they were conceived, made, guarded, enforced through the population, and unquestioningly followed—this book exposes power’s labors in shaping and merging with the real.