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A league is a unit of length. It was common in Europe and Latin America, but is no longer an official unit in any nation. The word originally meant the distance a person could walk in an hour. Since the Middle Ages, many values have been specified in several countries.
The Argentine league (legua) is 5.572 km (3.462 mi) or 6,666 varas: 1 vara is 0.83 m (33 in).
On land, the league is most commonly defined as three miles, though the length of a mile could vary from place to place and depending on the era. At sea, a league is three nautical miles (3.452 miles; 5.556 kilometres). English usage also included many of the other leagues mentioned below (for example, in discussing the Treaty of Tordesillas).
The French lieue – at different times – existed in several variants: 10,000, 12,000, 13,200 and 14,400 French feet, about 3.25 to 4.68 km (2.02 to 2.91 miles). It was used along with the metric system for a while but is now long discontinued.
A metric lieue was used in France from 1812 to 1840, with 1 metric lieue being exactly 4000 m, or 4 km (about 2.5 mi). It is this unit that is mentioned both in the title and the body text of Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870).
Perhaps in some rural parts of Mexico, the league is still used in the original sense of the distance that can be covered on foot in an hour, so that a league along a good road on level ground is a greater distance than a league on a difficult path over rough terrain.
As a transitory measure, after Portugal adopted the metric system, the metric légua, of 5.0 km, was used.
In Brazil, the légua is still used occasionally, where it has been described as about 6.6 km.
The legua or Spanish league was originally understood as equivalent to 3 millas (Spanish miles). This varied depending on local standards for the pie (Spanish foot) and on the precision of measurement, but was officially equivalent to 4,180 meters (2.6 miles) before the legua was abolished by Philip II in 1568. It remains in use in parts of Latin America, where its exact meaning varies.
In the early Hispanic settlements of New Mexico, Texas, California, and Colorado, a league was also a unit of area, defined as 25 million square varas or about 4,428.4 acres. This usage of league is referenced frequently in the Texas Constitution. So defined, a league of land would encompass a square that is one Spanish league on each side.
A comparison of the different lengths for a "league", in different countries and at different times in history, is given in the table below. Miles are also included in this list because of the linkage between the two units.
|Length (m)||Name||Where used||From||To||Definition||Remarks|
|1,482||mille passus, milliarium||Roman Empire||Ancient Roman units of measurement|
|1,609.3426||(statute) mile||Great Britain||1592||1959||1760 yards||Over the course of time, the length of a yard changed several times and consequently so did the English (and, from 1824, Imperial) mile. The statute mile was introduced in 1592 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I|
|1,609.344||mile||international||1959||today||1760 yards||Until July 1, 1959 the imperial mile was a standard length worldwide. The length given in metres is exact.|
|1,609.3472||(statute) mile||United States||1893||today||1760 yards||From 1959 also called the U.S. Survey Mile. From then its only utility has been land survey, before it was the standard mile. From 1893 its exact length in meters was: 3600/ × 1760|
|1,852||nautical mile||international||today||1852 m||Symbol: nmi; Abbreviation: NM|
|1,852.3||(for comparison)||1 meridian minute|
|1,855.4||(for comparison)||1 equatorial minute||Though the NM was defined on the basis of the minute, it varies from the equatorial minute, because at that time people could only estimate the circumference of the equator to be 40,000 km.|
|2,220||Gallo-Roman league||Gallo-Roman culture||1 1⁄2 miles||Under the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, this replaced the Roman mile as the official unit of distance in the Gallic and Germanic provinces, although there were regional and temporal variations.|
|3,898||French lieue (post league)||France||2000 "body lengths"|
|4,000||general or metric league|
|4,190||legue||Mexico||= 2500 tresas = 5000 varas|
|4,444.8||landleuge||1⁄25° of a circle of longitude|
|4,452.2||lieue commune||France||Units of measurement in France before the French Revolution|
|4,513||legua||Chile, (Guatemala, Haiti)||= 36 cuadros = 5400 varas|
|4,531||Wegstunde||Saxony||1722||1840||1000 Dresden rods||introduced on occasion of a countrywide road survey|
|4,828||English land league||England||3 miles|
|Germanic rasta, also doppelleuge
|5,196||legua||Bolivia||= 40 ladres|
|5,152||legua argentina||Argentina, Buenos Aires||= 6000 varas|
|5,556||Seeleuge (nautical league)||1⁄20° of a circle of longitude
3 nautical miles
|5,570||legua||Spain and Chile||Spanish customary units|
|5,572||legua||Colombia||= 3 Millas|
|5,572.7||legue||Peru||= 20,000 feet|
|Spain||= 3 millas = 15,000 feet|
|5,590||légua||Brazil||= 5,000 varas = 2,500 bracas|
|5,685||Fersah (Turkish league)||Ottoman Empire||1933||4 Turkish miles||Derived from Persian Parasang.|
|6,197||légua antiga||Portugal||= 3 milhas = 24 estadios|
new league, since 1766
|Spain||= 8000 Varas|
(state survey mile)
|7,409||(for comparison)||4 meridian minutes|
|7,419.2||Kingdom of Hanover|
|7,419.4||Duchy of Brunswick|
|7,420.439||geographic mile||1⁄15 equatorial grads|
|7,421.6||(for comparison)||4 equatorial minutes|
|7,467.6||Russia||7 werst||Obsolete Russian units of measurement|
|7,500||kleine / neue Postmeile
(small/new postal mile)
|Saxony||1840||German Empire, North German Confederation, Grand Duchy of Hesse, Russia|
(German state mile)
|Denmark, Hamburg, Prussia||primarily for Denmark defined by Ole Rømer|
|Austria-Hungary||Austrian units of measurement|
|9,062||average Post- or Polizeimeile
(middle post mile or police mile)
|9,206.3||Electorate of Hesse|
|9,261.4||(for comparison)||5 meridian minutes|
|9,277||(for comparison)||5 equatorial minutes|
(old state mile)
(old state mile)
|10,000||metric mile, Scandinavian mile||Scandinavia||still commonly used today, e.g. for road distances.; equates to the myriameter|
|11,113.7||(for comparison)||6 meridian minutes|
|11,132.4||(for comparison)||6 equatorial minutes|
|11,295||mil||Norway||1889||was equivalent to 3000 Rhenish rods.|