The History of Time: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780192804990

Leofranc Holford-Strevens
160 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Aug 2005
Very Short Introductions


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  • An absorbing exploration of an aspect of our lives which we all take for granted
  • An accessible look at an immensely complicated subject, using original research and a range of tables and diagrams to fully explain the concepts involved
  • There is no comparable introduction to this subject available
  • Covers a wide range of cultures

Why do we measure time in the way that we do? Why is a week seven days long? At what point did minutes and seconds come into being? Why are some calendars lunar and some solar?
The organisation of time into hours, days, months and years seems immutable and universal, but is actually far more artificial than most people realise. The French Revolution resulted in a restructuring of the French calendar, and the Soviet Union experimented with five and then six-day weeks. Leofranc Holford-Strevens explores these questions using a range of fascinating examples from Ancient Rome and Julius Caesar's imposition of the Leap Year, to the 1920s' project for a fixed Easter.


1: Principles of time measurement
2: Prehistory and history of the modern calendar
3: Weeks and seasons
4: Easter
5: Other calendars
6: Marking the year
7: Dividing the day
Further Reading

About the author: 

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, a classicist, received a D.Phil from Oxford University in 1971. The author of Aulus Gellius (1988), and co-author of The Oxford Companion to the Year (OUP 1999), he is a desk-editor with Oxford University Press. He has a long-standing interest in calendars, chronologies, and the calculation of time.

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