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Of what Antiquity Shires were in England.
It is easily to be perceived by the reading of our old English histories, that this land hath been divided into sundry kingdoms, the one invading the other, as they found strength and opportunity; in which kingdoms every king had his chief city or place of abode: whereof sundry examples might be recited, which I omit, because I will contain myself within the lists of our order.
After that being subdued by some one more strong than the rest, as I suppose, by king Alured; for I find by a register book of Chertsey Abbey, written in king John's time, as I think, because he endeth his history at that time, that the same king wrote himself, Totius Insula Britannica Basileus, and that he divided this land into Centuriatas,
Now, in the 33d chapter of the Black Book is contained thus: Hida à primitiva institutione ex centum acris constat; hundredus vero es hidarum aliquot contenariis set non determinatur. Quidam enim ex pluribus, quidam ex paucioribus hidis constat : hinc hundredum in veteribus regum Anglicorum privilegiis centuriatam nominari frequenter invenies; comitatus autem çadem lege ex hundredis constat; hoc est, quidam cą
pluribus, quidam ex paucioribus secundum quod divisa est terra per viros discretos, &c.
Whereby it appeareth, that Centuriata is and was taken of old for a hundred; and that sundry hundreds make a shire. So that he dividing the land first into hundreds, did afterwards appoint, what number of hundreds should belong to every shire; and then appointed the same shire to be called by the name of the chief town of that circuit or province; as you see they be called at this day; except a few, which be called by the name of the peoples there dwelling, having relation to the Romans, who from Rome called Cisalpini and Transalpini, so from London Estsex, i. e. Est Saxons, Middlesex, Westsex, Chent, Surregiani vel Suthreg, Northfolk, and Sudfolk; names brought in by the Saxons. And herein this nation hath imitated the course mentioned in the Bible; for ever from the creation of the world and multiplication thereof, every people knew their own territories. Joshua likewise divided the land of promise into tribes. The Psalms say in the 49, And they call their lands by their names.
Therefore all old antiquity divided the world into parts, as Asia, Africa, Europa; and parts into provinces; provinces into regions or kingdoms; regions into places or territories; territories into fields; fields into hundreds; hundreds into hides or plough lands; plough lands into severed or common fields, called
climata; climates into days work of tillage; days work into poles or perches, paces, degrees, cubits, feet, handfuls, ounces, and inches; such was their great diligence. And because kings found by experience that Ubi nullus ordo, ibi sempiternus error, or, as some say, horror; to prevent that inconvenience in government, as the Black Book saith in the 32d chap. ut quilibet jure-suo contentus, alienum non usurpet impune-Kings, I say, thought good to divide that great log or huge mass of a commonwealth into particular governments, giving authority to sundry persons in every government, to guide their charge, thereby following the advice of Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, given to Moses in the wilderness. The same manner used Fergus, king of Scots, who reigned there when Coilus reigned in Britain; of whom it is written, that he divided his land into provinces, and caused his nobles to cast lots for the same, and called every country by the name of his governor. And king Henry II. imitated the like in sending his justices itinerant through the land to execute justice in every shire,
So as to conclude, I think that king Alured was the first that caused shires to be called by their names, because he divided the land into hundreds ; and that which other nations call province, we call shire; and that is the right name in Latin; for sq
doth Witlesey, the monk of Peterborough, call it in the 37th leaf of his book, saying, In provinciá Lincolniæ non sunt Hidæ terræ, sicut in aliis provinciis ; sed pro hidis sunt carucatæ terræ, et tantum continent, quantum Hide, &c.
WILLIAM CAMDEN, the eminent English antiquary and historian, was born at Litchfield, in Staffordshire, in 1551; but his father, who was a painter-stainer, removing to London, he spent the first years of his education at Christ's Hospital, and afterwards at St. Paul's School. In 1566, he entered as servitor in Magdalene College, Oxford; though he afterwards removed to Broad-gate-Hall, now Pembroke College, and then to Christchurch, being patronised and even supported by Dr. Thornton, canon of Christ-church.
He quitted Oxford in 1571, and repaired for the present to London; but soon after travelled over the greater part of England. To quote his own words-" Relictâ academiâ, studio incitata satis magnam Angliæ partem fide ocu