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Losing 11 Days: The Calendar Switch

The change from the Julian to Gregorian Calendar.

Eleven days. Gone. Riots in many towns and villages. The Government had stolen eleven days.

Yesterday it was September 2, 1752, today it is September 14.

In the British Empire, one hemisphere to another, time itself was changed.

Although September 3 to September 13 disappeared from the English lands in 1752, they had vanished from France in 1582, from Austria in 1584, and from Norway in 1700.

The British were among the last countries in the world to accept the Gregorian calendar.

Up until that moment the Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar, who adopted it around 45 B.C. had been used.

On that calendar March 25 was New Year’s Day and the year was 365 days and 6 hours long.

The Nicene Council officially adopted the calendar in 325 A.D. and it spread throughout the world.

Over time, as it became possible to measure the length of the solar year more accurately, astronomers found that the Julian system exceeded the solar year by 11 minutes, or 24 hours every 131 years, three days every 400 years.

This excess amounted to 10 days between 325 A.D. and 1582 A.D.

Pope Gregory XIII had ordered a new calendar, called the Gregorian in 1582 and most of the world accepted it.

In most parts of the world the year jumped forward by 10 days on October 5, thus restoring the vernal equinox to March 21.

To prevent the recurrence of this error, the Pope ordered that in every 400 years, leap year’s extra day should be omitted three times.

To accomplish this in an orderly fashion, he omitted the last day of February on centennial years of which the first two digits couldn’t be divided by four without a remainder.

Thus, there was no ‘leap year’ in 1700, 1800, and 1900, but there was in 2000.

All Catholic countries, following the edict of the Pope, immediately adopted the new system. England, then in difficulties with the Church of Rome, refused to go along with the new calendar.

England maintained the Julian system until the mid-18th century and by then the difference had grown to 11 days.

All British lands except Scotland, which changed its calendar 100 years before, would now celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1.

there were English people who comprehended the flawed Julian calendar and had began to use the Gregorian system as early as the 16th century.

Thus, many early colonial records include double dates, written as “12 February 1661/1662,” indicating that, although it was officially 1661, some considered it to be 1662.

When dealing with dates, between the 16th and 18th century one must be very careful and double-check those found in English-speaking countries between 1582 and 1752. One must be alert to the double dating.

These double dates occur only in January, February and March–never in any other months and never after 1752.

In addition, dates in the 17th century frequently have the month indicated by its number rather than its name.

This was because most of the months had Roman or “pagan” names and the Puritans and Quakers disliked them.

March was the first month of the year before 1752, so any reference to ‘New Years’ would not refer to January 1.

Today we use the Gregorian calendar unaware of how much trouble it caused, and how difficult it was to get the whole world on the same ‘page.’

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