November 21, 1998
News Flash! The Thousand Islands aren't. Actually, there are closer to 1800 of them. But "thousand" has such a nice, round ring to it; almost as satisfying as 'millennium'. In the same vein, The Hundred Years War lasted from 1337 to 1453; 116 years, by my calculator. If we subtract an 18-year truce, we're left with the 98 Year War. Go figure! In a previous segment I said there's nothing magical about the number one hundred. But that seems to be a minority view. Centennials are always favorites with event planners, not to mention the media. What is a hundred, anyway? It probably does not depend on what your definition of 'is' is.
The word itself is based on the Teutonic-tinged Old English word meaning 'to reckon in tens'. Alfred the Great chose it to represent an administrative district that was a subdivision of a county, mainly for judicial purposes. 'Hundreds' was the term applied in the areas under his control. In some of the northern areas under Scandinavian control, they were called 'wapentakes', other regions used the term 'ward'. Parts of Cornwall used the term 'shire'. Which could also mean 'county'. Starting to get a headache, are we?
Some say Alfred used the term to denote a group of a hundred families, and the land they lived on. Eventually the term fell out of use and was replaced by 'shires'. Some of the early Virginia and Maryland plantations were designated as hundreds, such as Berkeley Hundred. Jefferson wanted to use the word in place of 'parish', thus eliminating the religious connotations.
When Armand-Jean de Plessis, better known to us as Cardinal Richelieu, decided to form an organization in 1627 to promote the colonization of North America, he named it the Compagnie de la Nouvelle Francais. Not always one to do things in a small way, he picked a large, round number of investors, and the group also became known as the One Hundred Associates. 188 years later, when Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba and returned to Paris on March 20th, 1815, he met his you know what, and Louis XVIII was placed on the throne on June 28th of the same year. The math worked out right for once, and the intervening period became known as the Hundred Days. If Jefferson thought the term 'hundred' would have no religious connotations, he underestimated his fellow Americans. Many black church congregations today sing hymns with melodies that harken back to a much earlier time. Being at least a century old they are known as Old One Hundreds.
In case you're wondering how I decided on this topic, it's to mark the 100th TimeMaster broadcast.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor, inviting you back for the next 100.
© 1998 David Minor Eagles Byte
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