The Metric System in National Law and Local Practice in 19th-Century Brazil
This paper, part of a new project on the impact of standardization on domestic economic integration, uses Oliveira’s reports to examine how policies with national scope were understood and implemented at the local level. These reports reveal a myriad of local contingencies that negatively affected the ability to follow the law, and commented on the fluid usage of old and new measures accordingly. Almost none of the villages or cities had fully adopted or regularly used the new system. Oliveira’s fact finding mission produced a series of proposed remedies that all rested on national-level actions to improve local-level outcomes, including fostering better understanding of the system through elementary education, properly training local officials in care and usage of the standards, and manufacture of standards in materials that did not degrade in the elements. The reports reveal the complex nature of translating national policies into local practices in the efforts to unify and modernize the domestic economy.
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