A Matter of Time


Culturele Revolutie wekkerIf you want to change society, why not change the calendar as well?

During the 18th century, radical French philosophers concluded that the existing Gregorian calendar was not appropriate for the coming Age of Reason. After the French Revolution, an entirely new calendar was introduced. The Republican calendar was in use from 1794 to 1805. In 1849 Auguste Comte proposed a 'positivist' calendar, consisting of 13 months of four seven-day weeks. Later proposals combined elements of various calendars, but were bound to remain armchair proposals. Only the British International Fixed Calendar League (1923) was relatively successful at gaining real political support.

The European labour movement of the late 19th - early 20th century needed calendars, almanacs and diaries like anyone else, so party organizations and their publishing houses produced these in large quantities. Many include important events from the labour movement, or even dedicate particular days to socialist 'saints'.

An interesting way to 'change time' is to write a novel as a document from the future. The first novels of this type appeared at the end of the 18th century. Many of the later 'classics' of the genre were inspired by Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888).

Perhaps the most basic way to change time is to change your watch or clock. If your watch bears the emblem of your party, or the image of the leader you support, it will be your time every time you look for the time.

Some variations on the theme 'Time' from China, Kurdistan, Indonesia, Europe and the US from the collections of the IISH:
• Calendar reform: 18th-19th century France
• Fantasies of the future
• International Fixed Calendar League
• Workers' calendars and almanacs
• Another watch, another time

Text and document selection: Marien van der Heijden