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A league is a unit of length (or, rarely, area). It was long common in Europe and Latin America, but it 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.
In nautical usage, a league of 3 nautical miles (5.5 km) is roughly how far an observer of average height (around 6 ft. or 1.8 m) can see when standing at sea level. Thus, a ship travelling one "league" has reached what was previously the farthest visible distance on the horizon. The lack of an historical and global standard for the exact measure of a "league" can be accounted for by the variable elevation of the observer. For example, a crow's nest mounted atop a 50 ft. (15.2 m) mast extends the visible range to 9.35 miles (15.1 km).
On land, the league was 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 was three nautical miles (about 5.6 km). English usage also included any of the other leagues mentioned below (for example, in discussing the Treaty of Tordesillas).
The Argentine league (legua) is 5.572 km (3.462 mi) or 6,666 varas: 1 vara is 0.83 m (33 in).
As a transitory measure, after Portugal adopted the metric system, the metric légua, of 5.0 km, was used.
In Brazil, légua is still used occasionally in the country, where it has been described as about 6.6 km.
The French lieue – at different times – existed in several variants: 10,000, 12,000, 13,200 and 14,400 French feet, about 3.25 km to about 4.68 km. It was used along with the metric system for a while but is now long discontinued.
In Yucatán and other parts of rural Mexico, the league is still commonly 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.
The Danish or Swedish mil was defined as a suitable walking distance between rests, or between inns. While etymologically similar to a mile, the definition shares origin with a that of a league. An old Scandinavian mil ranges from 7.5 km to 12 km depending on nation or region, but has since metrification been defined as 10 km in Norway and Sweden.
The Spanish League or legua was originally set as a fixed unit of distance of 5 000 varas (0.84 m each), about 4.2 km (2.6 miles). Contemporary writers also show it as three millas (miles of 4 566 feet (1 392 meters) each making a total of 13 698 feet (4 175 m or 2.594 miles). Officially the league was abolished by Philip II of Spain in 1568, but it is still in use unofficially in parts of Latin America, with exact meaning varying in different countries.
In the early Hispanic settlements of New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado, a league was also a unit of area, defined as 25 million square varas or about 4,428.4 acres (1 792.110 hectares). 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, the 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 1 July 1959 the imperial mile was a standard length worldwide. The length given in metres is exact.|
|1,609.3472||(statute) mile||USA||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 metres was: 3600/3937 x 1760|
|1,852||nautical mile||international||today||1 minute of arc||Measured at a circumference of 40,000 km. Abbreviation: NM, nm|
|1,852.3||(for comparison)||1 meridian minute|
|1,855.4||(for comparison)||1 equatorial minute||Although the NM was defined on the basis of the minute, it varies from the equatorial minute, because at that time the circumferences of the equator was only able to be estimated at 40,000 km|
|2,220||Gallo-Roman league||Gallo-Roman culture||1.5 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|
|4,828||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||Kolumbien||= 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|
|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||primarlly for Denmark defined by Ole Rømer|
|Austro-Hungary||Austrian units of measurement|
|9,062||mittlere Post- / 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|
|11,299||mil||Norway||was equivalent to 3000 Rhenish rods.|