The metre was made the only unit of measurement in France for measuring length with effect from 1 January 1 840. It was the first but by no means the only stage in the decimal metric system, which also included measurements of volume and weight together with their accompanying multiples and submultiples.
Although the ancient peoples had made some progress in the measurement of length, for the measurement of capacity they were confined to using the hollow of the hand or some other extremely elementary container which did not form a constant unit.
The litre, the unit for measuring capacity in the metric system, is very closely linked to the metre. It is, in fact, the capacity of a container in the shape of a cube with sides measuring one decimetre, that is one-tenth of a metre. The litre is equal to about one and three-quarter pints.
The litre was too small and inconvenient to measure the contents of a large tank and multiples are therefore used: the deca litre or 10 litres and the hectolitre or 100 litres.
For measurements smaller than a litre we use the decilitre or one-tenth of a litre and the centilitre or one-hundredth of a litre.
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